Increase the effectiveness of Interim Management: Part 1
”As many interim consultants are used as a catalyst for change, it is surprising that so few organisations plan effectively, set targets and create good conditions so that the investment in specialist competence can have full effect.”
Demand for strategically important key competence is high and giggers with expert knowledge have become an increasingly important resource for companies of all sizes and in all industries. Even so few organisations create the right conditions for the investment in specialist competence to have full effect. Ola Ahlsén works as Director for Interim Operations at Lagotto. Below he shares his thoughts on interim management – and how organisations can increase the level of effectiveness.
Increasingly organisations rely on external leaders and specialists in strategically important roles, roles that were previously earmarked for employees. Interim management brings speed, flexibility and cost effectiveness when business critical changes need to be made. It can also create room for development and innovation when new competence and new perspectives are introduced. So regardless of whether driven by the need for new knowledge in order to remain competitive due to technological change, adapt operations and internal controls to new regulatory requirements, or to strengthen critical functions following rapid growth, freelance specialists with expert knowledge have become an important resource.
Considering that interim consultants are used as a catalyst for change: they drive product and service development, transform organisations, adapt work methods to new business models and act as advisors for start-ups and for scale ups – there are too few organisations that plan, set targets and create good conditions for the investment in specialist competence ”on demand” to have full effect.
The reasons for this can vary. For example, there can be an inherent difficulty in translating strategic initiatives in practice, or poor capabilities in motivating and empowering staff in turbulent times. While other reasons are more specific to situations when consultants are assigned:
- Interim consultants have been traditionally used for managerial roles or key positions as a stopgap between permanent employees or to fill a hole left by a temporary leave of absence. This has created an impression of consultants as an unchanging, temporary and replaceable resource, which in turn has led to low expectations in terms of effectiveness.
- At the same time many people confuse consultants with employees and treat them in a similar way. This can create a basis for misunderstandings, as assignments for consultants are different in their approach and goals to the roles of employees. The consultant has a clear focus to complete a task, defined in time and with given resources, an employee in a key position should have a long-term perspective and focus on the company’s direction and vision. Naturally the consultant should act based on the overall business goals, but the focus should be primarily on completing the assignment in time and with the given resources.
- Finally it is part of the nature of freelancing that the need for a consultant occurs due to a lack of time, competence or resources, so it is perhaps natural that it is difficult to create the perfect conditions.
Part 2 – A good approach
In the second part of this article we will examine how the organisation should act to increase the effectiveness of external leaders and specialists in strategic roles. Here is a summary of what we will cover:
Be thorough. All recruitment of employees to key positions is difficult and risky. The need for interim consultants usually arises suddenly and you only have a short time to identify and attract the right person with the right competence. At the same time you should select a consultant based on their actual skills – not their potential. You are hiring knowledge and operational capability and there is no time for learning on the job or competence development. That is why it is important to correctly evaluate both “soft” and ”hard” skills.
Specify. Keep in mind that the consultant has an assignment with a clear expectation of delivery. Specify goals and follow-up the desired effect, budget and time plan. In your specification keep in mind other considerations such as communicative ability, cultural and organisational match and adaptability so as to avoid conflicts and other expensive problems.
Communicate. To risk stating the obvious – make sure you consider the consultants’ prerequisites and communicate based on these:
- Share context. Clarify the background, expectations and prerequisites to the assignment. Be fully transparent about risks, barriers, and internal limitations. Be thorough and give the correct and complete information.
- Encourage problem definition and two-way communication. As the consultant has additional knowledge and competence and a different perspective the consultant has the possibility to see problems and potential improvements in a new way. Be open to new ideas by creating the right expectations and a structure to receive them in a good way.
- Recognise praiseworthy initiatives. Everyone feels good about and works better when a good initiative is recognised and rewarded. Let good work and a successfully completed assignment act as a good example for the rest of the organisation.
Are you preparing to hire an interim consultant or are you interested in becoming a consultant yourself? Don’t hesitate to contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org.