Interim Management Assignment

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The Different Phases of an Interim Management Assignment

This week, we would like to look at the different phases of an interim management assignment. Obviously, each assignment has different requirements and focus points, but still, the course of an Interim Assignment is generally the same. One of our iCEO certified managers, Didier Douziech subdivides an interim assignment into the following seven phases:

Phase 1: Select the manager and confirm the assignment by the manager. Interim manager are often needed during a crisis thus clients mostly look for an experienced manager who can turn around a situation. Therefore they look for strong industry and market knowledge as well as typical abilities of an experienced interim manager: to quickly adapt and analyse, to work autonomously, to be result oriented and stress resistant, to be communicative… On the other part, the transition manager must clearly understand the objective of his mission, and he must get information about the company he gets involved with. He must carefully examine the contract, particularly the clauses of non-competition and end of contract.

Phase 2: Prepare the assignment. The preparation of the mission, for example during preliminary meetings held at the headquarters of the company should be regarded as “silence before the storm”. The interim manager should use this time to gather information on the market, the structure of the company or the services he will be responsible for, the operational rules, the current businesses and especially the staff he will have to manage. Once in the heart of the subject, he will have to quickly get his own opinion on many issues and persons; thus, all the information previously gathered will make this work easier for him.

Phase 3: Operational start of the assignment. The arrival of the transition manager in the company is a key moment. Therefore the new manager should prepare his arrival well to ensure that his appearance, his first actions and words will be adapted to his role and his environment. He will have to quickly implement the first levers of power: set up a management committee, build a circle of trustworthy people who will be his sources of information and relay managers, establish a dashboard on the evolution of the market sector he is responsible for and its environment, etc… In this third phase, he quickly imposes his mark by setting the first rules and by taking some safe decisions.

Phase 4: Observe, analyse … and navigate at sight. When the circumstances are favourable, the transition manager takes some time to study the environment he is in charge of, before determining how to achieve the defined goal. Therefore, ideally, a general manager interviews all managers of departments or in key positions of the company, visits representative customers, factories and departments, gets in contact with all the staff, at least by greeting them, if the company size allows this. All information gathered is oriented towards the defined objective. Actually, the clients, the employees or the circumstances often do not leave the transition Manager enough time for this constructive approach. In that case he must do everything at once and to the best of his abilities – manage, observe and analyze the company in order to be able to get to the following phase as soon as possible.

Phase 5: Action plan definition. In my eyes the action plan is a diverse weapon. It helps to synthesize the list of issues to deal with and the actions to take, to appoint the people responsible for these actions and to fix the completion dates. It is also a means to actively involve staff and to show the client that the situation is getting under control and put on the right tracks. The action plan must be a mix of ideas from the transition manager, bringing an external point of view and expertise, and the best ideas from his staff who will feel valued when their opinion has been taken into account. A few weeks should be sufficient to establish a complete action plan, but there too, experience shows that sometimes circumstances need very quick reaction and that, particularly in times of crisis, action plans are often questioned by unforeseen events and priority changes. It is very important though that at least some actions with strong impact are carried out as soon as possible.

Phase 6: Execution and communication. Once the transition manager has established his leadership and the action plan has been announced, he needs to prove himself. Indeed, there will be many occasions of potential leadership loss and of stagnation of parts of the action plan: more or less open opposition from certain people, return of old habits, diminishing support of the client, sudden turn of the company, an overloaded schedule of the transition manager, etc … The action plan must remain the axis of the assignment. It can be adapted if some actions prove irrelevant, unfeasible or with an unfavourable “impact/necessary means” ratio. The regular publication of its progress, at least every 15 days, is vital to tame the unruly and to show the team as well as the client the progress made to reach the objective. A transition management period often traumatises the personnel, thus the transition manager should make sure that all people concerned receive correct and regular information.

Phase 7: Power transfer. As indicated by its name, an interim or transition management assignment consists in facilitating the transition from one situation to another, for example from a state of crisis to a stable environment, or from the absence of manoeuvrability to a controlled situation. Once the objective has been achieved, the transition manager finishes his mission by transferring to the succeeding management all his knowledge regarding the entity he was in charge of, the progress report of the action plan and his advice for the future. This task is an integral part of the mission and in general, works better than an unaccompanied transfer of his role to a manager who is often already speculating to get the open position.


We would be interested in hearing from you, if you have similar or different experiences. We also invite interim managers to register with our Interim Manager Pool at www.ceo-worldwide.com and any company looking for an interim manager to browse through the Interim Manager Pool within our Executive Search Engine.


About the author: As Managing Director of a 1st tier supplier of the automotive industry (90 employees, 20M€ turnover), I achieved an extensive cultural change towards quality awareness and customer service efficiency, launched successfully the application of Lean Management, established cooperation between the French company and its German mother company, achieved a drastic inventory reduction and thanks to these improvements acquired a 4M€ contract with a car maker. View Didier’s short bio

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