Flying Squad

first_img Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Interim management is increasingly seen as a valuable business resource.Here is our guide to the qualities you should look for in an interim managerDespite the fact that many people would still not know what “interimmanagement” actually means, those who do like to talk about its”changing face”. Ten years ago, when it first started being writtenabout in the more outré management journals, it was hailed as the ultimatesymbol of the disposable labour market – the temps at the top who had beenreengineered out of proper jobs to scavenge the odd week’s work for themselvesin the post-industrial blight of self-employment. Today, we are assured, this is the odd and disturbed infancy of the beast,before it made good and hit the big time. All in the past. “It isabsolutely not an alternative to a real job,” says Ian Daniell, chairmanof the interims’ trade body, the Association of Temporary and Interim ExecutiveServices. “It is not about marketing the services of redundant executives. Thosewho do it want to operate in this way, as a professional undertaking. It is aconscious career choice people make about an alternative way of working.”He concedes that, as in many other ways, redundancy can be a spur. But, hesays client companies do not just want a safe pair of hands who can do nodamage while someone important is off. “Interim management is an executive resourcing service. It is not aboutgetting someone in to hold the fort. When you employ an interim, you arebringing in someone to add value, to revitalise a function or anorganisation.” Daniell says that as little as five years ago, all CVs he received were frompeople in their 50s and 60s; the restructured and downsized, the early retiredwith an inkling there was life in the old dog yet. Now, he says, they are a decade younger – 40s or 50s, choosing analternative to the drudgery of the daily grind. The cynical might believe thereis a touch of branding in this view. After all, IM firms regard it as agruesome faux pas to use the word “agency” when referring to thesuppliers of interims – agency means HGV drivers and shorthand secretaries,although the tendency to sharpen the distinction may speak volumes tooutsiders.Yet, according to one of the few pieces of research into the views of theinterims themselves, there is ample support for his view. Supply company,IM&M, which specialises in the HR field, found that 74 per cent regardedbeing an interim manager as “a long-term option” or “a careerpath”. They went into IM to “widen their experience” and”for a new challenge”. Of the 176 surveyed, 92 per cent were confident of continuity ofassignments, while 82 per cent had carried out at least one assignment in thepast year. Alyson Gilbert-Smith, managing director of IM&M, argues the growth of IMchimes with Charles Handy’s predictions about the “core-periphery”employment model and the growth of project-based work. “Companies havebeen under relentless pressure to cut costs for years now, but it has got tothe stage when they simply can’t reduce overheads any more, so they look tointerims to provide a new way of attracting high-quality management ability andexperience.” While freedom, variety and an ever-expanding network of ex-colleagues arethe undoubted advantages of being an interim, money may also play a part. Atthe very lowest level, a junior HR manager can earn about £200 a day. But atthe higher end – for former top general managers, managing directors,functional aces or chief executives, and there are many top people fromhousehold name firms who are operating in IM – top performers can earn £2,000 aday and take a good chunk of the year off. Typical assignments last betweenthree and six months.There are provisos. First, supply companies will take a commission ofbetween 25 and 35 per cent. They invoice the client company; the interiminvoices the supply company. Such fees are justified by the fact that thesekind of figures are common in the executive recruitment arena and dwarfed byconsultancies. The companies can also spend a month selecting and interviewingthe right executive. Some supply companies boast they have placed an executive in as little as24- hours. But three weeks is a typical turnaround time. Normally, they receivebetween 40 and 50 enquiries from would-be interims every month; most areencouraged to register with as many agencies as possible. Then, of course,interims operate through their own limited companies, without any of the usualbig company benefits, paid holidays, pensions and so on.ATIES cautiously believes that IM is continuing to grow by 25 per cent ayear into a market worth up to £500m. Others such as imPAact executives, partof PA Consulting, go further, claiming 40 per cent growth a year. Needless to say, there are several key management trends that are fuellingthe demand. First, there is a consensus that mergers, acquisitions and indeeddemergers account for a great deal of work for interims. Specific projects,change management, training, culture change and planning are the interim’sbread and butter. But conversely, a company may Interim management is increasingly seen as a valuable business resource.Here is our guide to the qualities you should look for in an interim managerDespite the fact that many people would still not know what “interimmanagement” actually means, those who do like to talk about its”changing face”. Ten years ago, when it first started being writtenabout in the more outré management journals, it was hailed as the ultimatesymbol of the disposable labour market – the temps at the top who had beenreengineered out of proper jobs to scavenge the odd week’s work for themselvesin the post-industrial blight of self-employment. Today, we are assured, this is the odd and disturbed infancy of the beast,before it made good and hit the big time. All in the past. “It isabsolutely not an alternative to a real job,” says Ian Daniell, chairmanof the interims’ trade body, the Association of Temporary and Interim ExecutiveServices. “It is not about marketing the services of redundant executives. Thosewho do it want to operate in this way, as a professional undertaking. It is aconscious career choice people make about an alternative way of working.”He concedes that, as in many other ways, redundancy can be a spur. But, hesays client companies do not just want a safe pair of hands who can do nodamage while someone important is off. “Interim management is an executive resourcing service. It is not aboutgetting someone in to hold the fort. When you employ an interim, you arebringing in someone to add value, to revitalise a function or anorganisation.” Daniell says that as little as five years ago, all CVs he received were frompeople in their 50s and 60s; the restructured and downsized, the early retiredwith an inkling there was life in the old dog yet. Now, he says, they are a decade younger – 40s or 50s, choosing analternative to the drudgery of the daily grind. The cynical might believe thereis a touch of branding in this view. After all, IM firms regard it as agruesome faux pas to use the word “agency” when referring to thesuppliers of interims – agency means HGV drivers and shorthand secretaries,although the tendency to sharpen the distinction may speak volumes tooutsiders.Yet, according to one of the few pieces of research into the views of theinterims themselves, there is ample support for his view. Supply company,IM&M, which specialises in the HR field, found that 74 per cent regardedbeing an interim manager as “a long-term option” or “a careerpath”. They went into IM to “widen their experience” and”for a new challenge”. Of the 176 surveyed, 92 per cent were confident of continuity ofassignments, while 82 per cent had carried out at least one assignment in thepast year. Alyson Gilbert-Smith, managing director of IM&M, argues the growth of IMchimes with Charles Handy’s predictions about the “core-periphery”employment model and the growth of project-based work. “Companies havebeen under relentless pressure to cut costs for years now, but it has got tothe stage when they simply can’t reduce overheads any more, so they look tointerims to provide a new way of attracting high-quality management ability andexperience.” While freedom, variety and an ever-expanding network of ex-colleagues arethe undoubted advantages of being an interim, money may also play a part. Atthe very lowest level, a junior HR manager can earn about £200 a day. But atthe higher end – for former top general managers, managing directors,functional aces or chief executives, and there are many top people fromhousehold name firms who are operating in IM – top performers can earn £2,000 aday and take a good chunk of the year off. Typical assignments last betweenthree and six months.There are provisos. First, supply companies will take a commission ofbetween 25 and 35 per cent. They invoice the client company; the interiminvoices the supply company. Such fees are justified by the fact that thesekind of figures are common in the executive recruitment arena and dwarfed byconsultancies. The companies can also spend a month selecting and interviewingthe right executive. Some supply companies boast they have placed an executive in as little as24- hours. But three weeks is a typical turnaround time. Normally, they receivebetween 40 and 50 enquiries from would-be interims every month; most areencouraged to register with as many agencies as possible. Then, of course,interims operate through their own limited companies, without any of the usualbig company benefits, paid holidays, pensions and so on.ATIES cautiously believes that IM is continuing to grow by 25 per cent ayear into a market worth up to £500m. Others such as imPAact executives, partof PA Consulting, go further, claiming 40 per cent growth a year. Needless to say, there are several key management trends that are fuellingthe demand. First, there is a consensus that mergers, acquisitions and indeeddemergers account for a great deal of work for interims. Specific projects,change management, training, culture change and planning are the interim’sbread and butter. But conversely, a company may choose to divert its in-housemanagement into integration activity and leave day to day management tointerims. Next, inevitably, there is outsourcing. Having got rid of many skills,organisations find themselves lacking in technical, but critical areas. Andoften in HR skills. IM&M says that TUPE, senior compensation and benefitsskills, staff integration and redundancy selection are all in short-supply.Then, there is the general tendency towards project-based work. Projectleadership skills and general management abilities are always needed. Andfinally, specific IT applications are frequently needed on a temporary,possibly start-up basis.Qualities for interims1 The grey hairs of wisdomThe optimum age for an interim is a subject of some controversy betweenthose who equate interims with experience and who regard anyone less than 45 assomething of a parvenu, and those who say interims can be anything from 30looking for a varied career.”I would not look at an interim without at least 10 years of seniormanagement responsibility and preferably upwards of 15, so 45 is pretty muchthe minimum age,” says Nigel Corby, managing director of GlobalExecutives. Loraine Cardell-Williams, manager of Interim Performers, agrees. “Belowthe age of 45, you could not guarantee that they were a serious interimmanager, and that is something that the clients want and that we try andguarantee to them. “Interims exist to plug a skills and experience gap. They are a skilledpair of hands needed for temporary business reasons,” she says.That said, Cardell-Williams says that IM is becoming a younger industry –pointing to growing demand for interims at middle management level, especiallyin HR. This point is strongly made by Gilbert-Smith of IM&M. “I would saythe average age is 30-40. The point is that it is no longer about hard times,or a sign of people coming to the end of their career. More and more people arelooking on it as a challenging career.” At the other end, Ian Daniell says that interims getting assignments at 65should count themselves lucky. “I did place a chief finance officer whowas 63 the other day,” he says. “Some clients want someone who isalmost an uncle figure. A lot depends on the attitude of the interim.”2 Nothing to prove”The best interims are those with nothing to prove,” says SheilaChalker, manager of Interim Management Services. “They have done it all –not in an arrogant way, but just so that nothing is a surprise to them; nothingtoo daunting. They should have no learning curves.”The consensus is that interims are usually overqualified for the tasks theyare assigned to – necessarily so. “One of the key advantages of theinterim is they are outside the sniping of office politics,” says NadiaParkin, consultant with imPAct executives. “They cannot be statusconscious or interested in the politics.” Many stress that one of the key skills of the interim is the ability toenter a situation, assess the politics, listen carefully and take control.Malcom Browne, head of Penna Interim says, “The interim manager has to beable to establish themselves quickly, take command of a situation at speed andgrasp the politics in no time.”Corby adds, “Mostly an interim will already have a successful careerbehind them, so necessarily they will be focussed on getting a particular jobdone.”Parkin says, “They have to be incredibly good at assessing a situationquickly and astutely and adapt their style accordingly. They have to createcertainty and leadership out of often hostile and tricky situations.”3 Results-driven Interim managers are doers, rather than talkers, helpers, strategists orthinkers. They are more than likely to have their own views about the future ofa particular operation, but they are normally parachuted in to take on a veryspecific task. “There is no business that is more results-driven than interimmanagement,” says Corby. “The interim will be judged entirely on whatthey achieve, not how hard they have tried and definitely not on what they say.The customer has to know that that is what they are getting, someone who issaying, ‘Judge me on what I achieve’.”Cardell-Williams says, “The challenges they are looking for are notabout titles. They have deliberately moved away from being stuck in the samejob and they are after the excitement of achieving things.”But Penna Interim’s Browne says what supply companies need to guarantee toclients is expertise – the assurance that interims have the capacity to dosomething, because they have a demonstrable skill set and a proven trackrecord. “Clients do not want someone to keep things ticking over,” hesays.4 Flexible problem solverAccording to IM&M’s survey, the interims believe they are wanted forcertain skills: problem-solving (41 per cent), creative thinking (31 per cent)and influencing and persuading people (30 per cent). They rated flexibility asthe key attribute of any interim (cited by 93 per cent), while over 80 per centregarded their ability at fitting into a team as “excellent”. A total of 90 per cent said it took them less than three weeks to get up tospeed and begin delivering tangible results. They regard their adaptability ashaving been enhanced by the life of an interim. The survey found that they feltjust as loyal to their client as they would in a permanent role. A total of 65per cent were expecting to retire between 55 and 60.5 RobustDespite all advantages, many supply companies agree it is probably not alife for eggshell personalities. Operating independently requires goodself-motivation and recognition that the interim exists to support others, notto be supported. “The best ones are very independent minded,” saysChalker of Interim Management Services. “They are in it for the ability todirect their own careers and not being permanently beholden to their boss. Theyneed a robustness.”Inevitably it is a life of flux, with typical assignments lasting six monthsand the risk that they are never really part of the action.That said, Gilbert-Smith argues that interims have “the best of bothworlds”. She adds, “They get the advantages of being fully integratedinto a team and I do not recall one who complained of being cut out of majorprocesses.” There is a universal consensus that the best interim managers want to beinterim managers. Many supply companies operate a system of finder’s fees todiscourage interims going (the Government is currently keen to ban temp to permfees – the cause of a major controversy within the recruitment field). But Corby argues that the issue seldom arises anyway. “There is nothingwe can practically do to say, ‘No, you can’t have that person as an employee’,but we want committed interims. We are offering an alternative to the very highcosts of employing someone full time.”6 The obligatory people person Because of the nature of project management, swift absorption into a team isa key skill of the interim. They have to earn respect and are often brought into revitalise flagging teams. “I would say they need to be extrovert andthey need to be good listeners,” says Daniell.While there is a grey area between the interim manager and the consultant,Daniell says the difference is that the interim has a proven track record in aparticular area and owes loyalty to the client, rather than the employingorganisation. “You can’t use a consultant as a line manger,” he says.”Interims have quantifiable experience.” Related posts:No related photos. Flying SquadOn 6 Jun 2000 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more