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How interim management is breathing new life into today’s stagnant businesses

almost 3 years ago by Nathan Baldwin


Some say a stable workforce is the backbone to any strong business. In businesses across the world, from global conglomerates to regional retailers, buzzwords like ‘loyal workforce’ or ‘outstanding retention rates’ dominate the core values pages of websites or the EVP sections of job advertisements.  But is this really the best way to ensure against the threat of business stagnation?

Think of it like this, an established but perhaps outdated business wants to re-establish its brand as a market leader, a bi-word for innovation. The senior leaders understand that to do this they need to undertake a cultural and technological transformation. But there is a problem, the existing managers who have worked their way up the ranks for years in the same business know nothing about the current market or how to implement a full business transformation.

What does the business do?

Q. Train a handful of managers up to undertake the project?

A. That would take too long and who would facilitate the manager’s day to day responsibilities?

Q. Hire a consultant to work with the senior team to help deliver the transformation?

A. This would require a lot of time and resources for employee training and could incur a huge cost for a day or hourly rate.

‘If only there was a way to hire a full-time qualified expert who could manage the transformation until it was complete’ thought the senior leaders. This is a thought that thousands of businesses have had over the last decade. But somewhere amidst the head scratching and panic laid the answer.

Manchester United’s interim success story

Despite the tumultuous ups and downs that have plagued the team since Fergie left, Manchester United adopted the interim management strategy, and for a time experienced resounding success.  After hiring and firing five managers, they switched tactics and looked for a more flexible solution. They found it with the appointment of ex-player and Nordic football manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

In doing this, Manchester United covered two essential areas of interim management, experience in a similar environment (in this case the same team) and experience in other environments (Solskjær’s experience of managing teams in Norway). When combined, these two assets allow an interim manager to instantly recognise what needs to be done and what the business can do differently to get it done.

A fresh pair of eyes plus experience, equals 20/20 vision

Under Solskjær’s management, the team went on to win all six of their first six games. But perhaps more importantly, the team morale was lifted, and players rediscovered their passion for winning.

Speaking at a conference and of the initial triumph of Manchester United’s appointment of an interim manager, Raj Tulsani, CEO of Green Park stated:

“When handled well, the ‘interim effect’ helped to revitalise a jaded team that stopped thinking it could succeed. A fresh pair of eyes can spot potential and bring players who were being overlooked to the forefront. A new way of thinking can unlock collaborative approaches to problem-solving, rather than doggedly sticking to ‘the way we’ve always done it’.”


How can interim management ensure permanent success?

This is a good question, especially considering Manchester United’s current position. Interim management is designed to do exactly what it says on the tin. It is interim and therefore works best on an interim or project to project basis i.e. a business transformation.

Ensuring initial success is the interim managers primary function, it is then largely up to the permanent employees to maintain success. This isn’t however to say interim management is a ‘splash and dash’ solution. An interim manager should always be responsible for training and inspiring businesses to look at doing things in a different way. 

At the Bridge we have seen businesses across the UK adopt this more flexible and modern hiring method when undergoing a significant change. Interim project or programme managers, or interim transformation specialists are playing an increasingly important role in the way businesses adapt to 21st Century demands.

With digital technology showing no signs of slowing down, we predict that interim management will become the new backbone of future businesses.

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