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Executive Interims in the Corporate Arena

How does the value of an ‘ Executive Interim Manager’ work in practice? Here are just a couple of examples of how ‘Interim Executives’ stepped in to help a sample of large International organisations.

One such organisation needed a human resources ‘Interim’ to bring about change on a grand scale across several European countries. They acquired a large PLC, which within a hundred years had become the world leader in air and gas handling and the manufacture of large scale fans and compressors. The company was established in eighteen countries across the world, giving it a leading market position in its products.

Following the takeover, the company embarked on a comprehensive review. They found that what they lacked was an HR Executive who had International ‘change management’ experience. The company enlisted a top ‘Interim Management’ Agency to help. Within a couple of weeks an ‘Interim Executive’ was in place. His first task was to tackle the multiplicity of sites across Europe. There were nine production sites spread over the continent, each making the same product, with only slight variations. Rationalisation meant that four had to be closed; two in Scotland, one in France and one in England, accompanied by nine transfers of production across the continent. This was accompanied by an investment programme in new IT systems for each site. Hundreds of staff had to be organised too, as the plan was to reduce the overall head count from 1,400 to 1,100. Timing was critical as was the need to work closely with the council and the local unions. It was essential to get the council on side as it had the power to set the programme back by a significant amount of time. ( Bad past experiences of a company who tried to close a factory, without consulting the works council, thus resulting in the programme being delayed by several months!)

The purchasing was not being carried out in a centralised way and so the company was unable
to take advantage of its potential purchasing power. HR personnel were thin on the ground. The CEO wanted to centralise production and turn the factories into centres of excellence for specific products.

During the ‘Executive Interim Manager’s’ year long assignment three key challenges emerged :- There were different cultures and languages operating in the various factories; there wasn’t easily obtainable manpower facts and figures and finally a distinct lack in a training programme for those who were made redundant. The ‘Interim’ professional encouraged the staff in the factories to work together, as opposed to being in competition, this required a high level of commitment and the company had to ensure that their staff were really buying in to the changes. Some of the centres had very little personnel data – really just that of who was on the payroll. The idea was to ensure that the entire enterprise used the same systems, covering everything from personnel data to production schedules and purchasing orders. A system was also introduced to help those made redundant, by giving them every opportunity and training to help them find new work. The company enlisted local business development authorities to help with this.

The ‘Executive Interim Manager’ maintained that they eventually had a clear plan of action and a talented group of managers dedicated to the organisation achieving its aims. The plan had to be detailed and credible and the delivery had to be confident and on-time, despite the complicated various initiatives.

Another example of effective use of an ‘Executive Interim Manager’ was for enhancing the global performance of a large PLC. The brief to the ‘Interim Management’ Agency was to identify a top-level Interim International finance director with experience of working in the U.S and implementing major change programmes. Immediate availability was essential. Within DAYS the prime candidate was identified, fulfilling all the criteria, including the candidate having dual UK/US citizenship. The ‘Interim Manager’s’ main tasks were to be able to upgrade and develop the copmpany’s finance function and to be able to ensure that they performed effectively on a global basis. The PLC was an international speciality chemicals group. The company was moving from being a US-based business to becoming a global company. A financial expert was needed to act as a ‘change agent.’

The company needed someone who was ‘over-qualified’ for the job, who could literally ‘hit-the-ground running’ on day one. This particular ‘Executive Interim manager’ could immediately see the wood from the trees. In that situation you are not developing someone as part of a career move, rather you’re looking for someone who has been a leader and a manager. That person must go in and head the function and play a major role. That particular
candidate made it clear that he didn’t want to be seen as a ‘hands-off’ consultant, but rather to be treated as the financial director who was doing the job, sharing the risks and achievements.

He initially won the trust of the team, helped their management team to identify ‘course corrections’ needed to ensure that the company would meet the requirements of its business plan and helped recruit two permanent members of staff- a new financial director and a financial planning manager.

At the end of the three month assignment the company had two new members of staff installed with the right skills set, the finance department was more effective, more structured and more capable and the company had a much clearer picture of where it actually stood in terms of its financial performance.

In both examples the ‘Interim Executive’ effected change swiftly and efficiently and left behind organisations better prepared to meet their challenges ahead.

About the Author: J Hadley writes on behalf of Executive Interims - Supply Chain Practice. See:

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