Here today but not to stay

Being an interim manager is very different to an acting up arrangement or a permanent appointment. Just ask Ole Gunnar Solskaer (Manchester United )

Management is about the management of change unless you are an interim manager in which case it is about stability. That is restoring confidence, repairing public image , reassuring members and generally trying to bring back the feel good factor. Unlike someone who is acting up you are new to the organisation so you start with a clean slate when it comes to your senior management team, you have no past history with this group of members or these partner agencies. You can expect a certain amount of good will especially as your interim brief does not include a reorganisation of services, a restructuring of management post or furthering the outsourcing agenda. All that will be left to the permanent post holder. However you may be asked to put the emergency breaks on the budget if that was the issue that saw you predecessor depart so suddenly. Your job is to plug the holes and then start the process of bailing out the water so the ship doesn’t sink. This won’t make you popular, a freeze on recruitment, a ban on the use of agency staff, no overtime, no approval of external training courses, no travel or accommodation expenses for attendance at external conferences, mileage restrictions, a freeze on capital expenditure. However you might be able to identify a few crowd pleasing measures like putting a block on the move to introduce hot desking and delaying the introducing of staff car parking charges. All these measures are temporary until the end of the financial year or until the members make a permanent appointment but it could take up to six months for the new person to take up the post. 

Your period of calm and stability will be appreciated but it won’t take long for pressure to build up, an organisation can’t stand still and stability can quickly be seen as stagnation. Partner agencies are planing for the future and they want to know where you stand, a temporary recruitment freeze can only be maintained for so long before it starts to seriously impede the work of the organisation and as the number of exemptions increases so does the sense of a lack of direction. The muttering from the stands can quickly led to chants of, “you don’t know what your doing” making the cabinet nervous and the senior management team restless and discontent. 

That’s the challenge of being an interim manager, keeping people on board even though they know you’re only there for the short term,  rapidly  establishing a rapport with key players, regaining the confidence of members in officers and gently helping members reflect on their role in present situation. The role is more tactical that strategic, the aim is to steady the ship and prepare the ground for the incoming post holder. It’s a role for someone with extensive experience whose career ambitions have already been satisfied. Unlike the acting up manager who wants the permanent post and if that doesn’t happen will apply to other authorities using their recently gained experience to support their application. 

Blair Mcpherson former Director  author and blogger 


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