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Paul Botting

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Effective change management: Interims in the driving seat

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In these difficult times, businesses need as much help as possible to ensure they are best placed to weather the economic storm, says Paul Botting.

 
 
The recession has emphasised the need for organisations across the public and private sector to take a fresh look at their inner workings and indeed, their HR policies. There can be no doubt that HR teams have an important part to play in implementing change, and as a result many departments have already begun tightening up their processes whilst looking for ways to operate smarter and more efficiently. 
 
In times like these, it’s quite likely that a management committee might order redundancies following the review of a less than perfect financial statement.  For such projects, it is an absolute necessity to employ an ‘outsider’ to analyse and manage any change, not least because of any potentially negative ramifications. For example, redundancy planning or mergers need to be managed confidentially to reduce a detrimental effect on team morale. However, with proper foresight and planning, these scenarios can be managed appropriately and efficiently to ensure the business objectives remain an absolute priority at all times. Enter the interim manager.
 

Help in the interim

 
Bringing in external expertise in the form of an interim change management specialist allows businesses to harness the experience and skills companies are unlikely to have internally.  These senior director-level interim managers have successfully navigated challenging situations and built up an extensive CV along the way. This experience, coupled with a fresh independent outlook, means they are best placed to manage corporate change, and with the Interim Management Association’s Ipsos MORI 2008 annual survey showing that three out of five assignments focused on change management, programme management and business improvement, many companies are already enjoying the benefits and highly specialised skills that interim managers have to offer.  
 

Direct engagement

 
Despite being employed for a relatively short period of time, interims have important goals to achieve and often need to get the ‘buy-in’ of senior managers and business partners very quickly. This means understanding objectives and making significant changes to the overall structure of their assigned department.
 
Historically, interim managers have excelled within HR by implementing major strategic initiatives. In these circumstances, the emphasis is on understanding the business goals and their relevance to changing and developing long-term HR policies. This means building a solid set of pragmatic solutions for permanent employees to follow, incorporating elements such as resourcing, workforce planning, talent management and succession.
 

Interim management providers

 
Setting strategic direction is second nature to an interim manager. However, despite being experienced business executives with a variety of projects under their belts, it’s still extremely important that HR directors sourcing interims identify specific objectives and provide as clear an activity brief as possible. This brief should incorporate a list of necessary requirements including the desired personality type, as well as relevant skills, knowledge and background that would benefit the company when implementing the required change.
 
However, with the market still in turmoil, there are many candidates on the hunt for jobs. Therefore, narrowing down profiles to a very specific candidate is an art in itself. That’s why interim management providers are also an extremely useful source of information. Providers can provide the right help and advice from the outset, and are able to quickly identify appropriate candidates and secure the most suitable candidate quickly. Their goal is to ensure that the interim manager is able to deliver results against their set objectives from day one. 
 
The additional challenge here for HR directors is determining the level of value an interim will provide. As with all possible outcomes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but the level of liability is obviously a great concern when hiring someone quite senior. However, an interim focusing on change management will be well versed in dealing with these concerns, and all things considered, when the viability of a company and the livelihoods of employees are under threat, inactivity is by far a greater risk. 
 
 
Paul Botting is chair of the Interim Management Association (IMA). 
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