Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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  • Interim Management: a bridge to the future

    Recently, I have had the opportunity to fill several interim management roles and in each case they were a bridge to the future. The assignments lasted between 3 to 6 months and I enjoyed them immensely. Let me share with you what I see as the critical factors for success.
    Before I start, here is a great definition of interim management on WIKI.

    The genesis of each of my engagements was the fact that a company found themselves with a gap in a key position. It can take a significant amount of time to hire a replacement and in the meantime a department can feel rudderless, even though it may have many highly capable people.

    The initial contact was made by the CEO who knew my work. We talked a roughly about what was needed but then it was up to me to put pen to paper to ensure we had a common understanding of what was to be accomplished and set objectives.

    Once the engagement started it was important for me to deliver quickly, reliably and be accountable for the outcomes. My success was a result of the following critical factors.
     [1] Leadership experience: You have all heard the cliché, “Been there, done that.” It applies in the case of interim management. I believe you must have significant leadership experience. You do not have the luxury of pondering and investigating a particular topic. You have to rely on your broad and deep experience to know how to handle various situations immediately. It may appear initially that the interim manager is over-qualified but that ensures rapid results.
     [2] Gain credibility immediately: As a leader you do not have all the answers, so you must listen, listen and listen. The answers are on the “shop floor”. Initially, I asked a lot of questions and did much listening. Eventually the puzzle pieces started to come together with the help of the staff. It is essential to recognize that I could not have done the job without them. By engaging the staff immediately and getting their thoughts, I earned their confidence.
     [3] Business Process Understanding: All quality training, regardless of name, has a key focus of understanding the end-to-end processes. Many issues arise, in any company, due to misunderstandings of how any given process works. This is not the fault of individuals but rather leadership. One of the things I was able to do was create value stream maps, where none had existed before, with the help of the staff. The added benefit was sharing this knowledge so the staff could do it on their own the next time.
     [4] Take accountability and be reliable: Even though this is a short-term assignment, an interim manager takes operational responsibility. They assess the situation and define objectives with the CEO. They create and implement the action plan. They monitor and verify the results with the CEO. They bring their personal experience to the assignment. This is the PDCA cycle made popular by Dr. W.E. Deming.
     [5] Leave a legacy: Although no one ever stops learning, as an individual you have gained much knowledge during your career. Leave some of that knowledge with the staff and organization you have been supporting. Help individuals grow. Provide coaching whenever possible. I believe that to be truly successful you must ensure the on-going success of the organization when you leave. Make a difference.

    By stepping into an organization and providing leadership, business process understanding, solving problems and coaching, you will provide management a bridge until a permanent solution is found – a bridge to the future.

    What traits do you feel are important for interim executive managers?

    Published on February 8, 2012 · Filed under: Leadership; Tagged as: ,
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