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Installing temporary management aids efficiency Back  
Interim management is an increasing trend in Ireland as more companies show reluctance to commit to a permanent overhead in terms of their resourcing requirements. many organisations are also looking for flexible ways to resource their businesses in the face of headcount embargoes. Interim management also allows organisations to tap into broader pools of talent and expertise. John Kelly from InterIM Solutions, the interim management company of MERC Partners, explains how the concept works.
Even in a slowing economy, attracting and retaining high quality staff, particularly at management level, continues to be a major issue for most organisations in the financial services sector. For organisations faced with management gaps, the concept of interim management (IM) - providing management expertise on an as needed basis - is increasingly becoming a viable resourcing option.

InterIM Solutions, is pioneering this concept in Ireland and, while it is a relatively new resourcing tool in this country, experience in other European markets indicate that it is set to increase rapidly. For example, in the UK, the IM industry has been estimated to be worth STG500 million. There are a number of factors driving its growth in Ireland.

Downsizing, restructuring and outsourcing were the great management buzzwords of the late 1980s and early 1990s (and to some extent are now making a comeback). Organisations rushed to develop leaner and flatter structures by taking out layers of middle management and outsourcing non-core activities. Many organisations are now so lean that when management gaps emerge either through resignation, maternity leave or illness they are not in a position to respond adequately from internal resources.

Meanwhile, consolidation, particularly in the financial services sector, which is driving an increasing rate of merger and acquisition activity, is creating short-term management resource issues for many organisations. This is reflected both in terms of the inputs required to manage the integration process and the inevitable loss of key executives as a result of the uncertainty generated.

The world of commerce is in a state of continual change, which is certain to increase rather than slow down over the next ten years. This dynamic, which is primarily driven by increased competition and rapid technological developments, requires changes in company culture and operations from a need for openness with suppliers and customers as partners to changes in operational systems and processes. The skills required to respond to and manage this breadth of change are different to those required to manage day to day operations. This is driving demand for interim change management expertise. The change dynamic is also reflected in the general tendency towards project based work in organisations, which creates demand for project and general management expertise for defined periods of time and very often on a flexible basis.

The current uncertainty in the Irish economy means many companies are reluctant to commit to a permanent overhead in terms of their resourcing requirements. An IM represents a low risk resourcing option. Many organisations in the face of head-count embargoes are also looking for flexible ways to resource their businesses.

The result has been an increase in demand for short term executive resourcing. An IM service provider allows organisations to tap into a broader pool of talent than their own network provides.

Profile of an Interim manager
In parallel to the above demand-side trends a cultural and life-style shift is producing a continuously expanding supply of experienced independent IM’s. This trend is reflected in a move from the old employer based dependency model to a self-dependency model. Increasingly experienced executives are deciding to do their own thing, attracted by the considerable degree of flexibility and control they gain over their working lives. Many IM’s make this decision on the back of cashing in stock options, or taking a package in a downsizing or an early retirement situation.

Brian O’Neill is typical. Earlier this year Brian decided at the age of 37 to resign from his European controller position with a multinational software company to operate as an IM. Due to generous stock options Brian had the financial wherewithal to make this move. Brian was looking for more flexibility and control in his working life having spent a considerable amount of the last ten years travelling. Brian was also attracted by the unique challenge of interim work, ‘Much of my career had been spent dealing with challenges such as start up situations, tackling under performing units and continuous improvement projects, I relish the management challenge of these situations, interim management offers me this type of challenge across a wide range of companies and sectors.’

Joe O’Mahony took early retirement from the Bank of Ireland group five years ago. Joe has over 25 years HR management experience with the bank latterly as divisional personnel manager - corporate and group functions. Joe’s considerable experience has been effectively deployed in a wide range of IM assignments, including managing a recruitment campaign for a multinational technology company and interim HR manager with a start up telecoms company whilst a permanent HR manager was being recruited. Joe has now moved from our pool of IM’s to working with us directly as an associate.

An IM will have a demonstrable track record of achievement in their particular area of expertise and will have the competencies required to make an immediate and positive impact in a wide range of cultures and environments. They are motivated by challenges presented by different assignments and organisations. By operating independently, they recognise they are there to support others and not to be supported.

Where an IM adds value
An IM operates differently to a consultant. An IM becomes part of the management team, takes direct responsibility and is a doer rather than an advisor. In other words they act as a de-facto permanent executive albeit on a short or a temporary basis.

IM is a very flexible resourcing option; an IM will typically take on a role that he or she is sensibly overqualified for, thus they can ‘hit the ground running’ and make an immediate positive impact. For example when Joe O’Mahony took on an interim recruitment assignment with a multinational technology company he had to be very adaptable and flexible: ‘My initial brief was to handle general recruitment, which quickly evolved into managing senior management recruitment and it eventually culminated in conducting a major root and branch review of the companies recruitment and selection policies. As an IM you have to be flexible, adaptable and adjustable’.

Typical situations where an interim manager adds value are as follows:
An IM is the ideal solution when it comes to plugging a gap, which may arise for example from the resignation of a key executive or a maternity leave situation. Recently a client, an international services company, approached us following the resignation of the financial controller of a subsidiary that had just been acquired. The client urgently required a FC with considerable experience of integrating businesses from a financial systems perspective to manage this aspect of the process from within the acquired company. Within 5 days of receiving the brief an experienced FD who had gone through this process several times before joined the company on a four-month placement.

Many of the situations we handle are based around some aspect of a post merger integration process. One of our IM’s, a seasoned HR specialist, was engaged by a major financial services organisation to help solve some individual and group issues arising out of the amalgamation of two companies. The IM initially developed a customised skills inventory and then focused on reconciling line management and staff expectations within a professional and acceptable HR framework. This involved the counselling of individual employees through to conclusion and the provision of a flexible and cost effective completion plan. Feedback from the client particularly emphasised the credibility of the IM in a very sensitive situation; the IM was in a position to gain the trust of line management and staff and was perceived as being politically neutral.

Specific project based work around change, training and process improvement regularly feature in an IM’s portfolio. A recent MERC Interim Solutions assignment involved a major financial institution that was about to embark on a SAP implementation project across its entire organisation. They had an urgent need for an OD/change manager to manage the organisational change implications of the project. Within two weeks of the client’s approach to us, an experienced interim OD/change manager joined the project team. The brief encompassed all training needs analysis, the development and implementation of the training response; communications and project cut off.

The benefits
The benefits of interim management include its cost effectiveness, the ability to speedily deploy relevant skills to a project or to plug a resource gap, and a considerable level of flexibility to suit the client’s requirements. For example, maternity leave cover for a human resource manager may be sufficiently provided for on a part-time basis and flexed up as requirements dictate such as during a major recruitment drive or at performance review time. Assignments can also be extended as required or terminated at short notice with no extra fuss or extra cost.

The inherent flexibility of an IM solution is also reflected in commercial terms with the client organisation typically retaining an IM via a service provider such as InterIM Solutions, on a variable cost basis. The client organisation does not incur any fixed employment costs with the service provider handling the administrative burden associated with external contracting.

Another important benefit is that engaging an IM can have a positive impact on succession planning by deploying an IM in a coaching or mentoring capacity. The fact that typically an IM is exclusively task focused and has no interest in developing a career in the client organisation ensures that the IM is not perceived as being a threat to permanent executives.

It is a management-resourcing tool, which complements the recruitment process and assists companies experiencing resourcing gaps at a senior managerial level.

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