Organisational and cultural change go hand in hand to achieve successful transition. One of the benefits of interim management is that these professionals can approach and tackle problems with company culture.

One of the top reasons that UK companies choose to hire interim managers is the uncertain economic environment. This gives them the ability to secure the skills they need without committing to a permanent working arrangement.

However, executives at senior level are increasingly recognising the cultural benefits of interim management. Bringing in someone who has no agenda or interest in office politics can challenge the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality and help to shift group think.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘group think’, it has actually been around for decades. It was introduced by social psychologist Irving Janus in 1972 to describe the phenomenon where groups make poor decisions because the members have similar backgrounds and ignore opinions from outside. It causes the following problems:

  • Too little consideration of assumptions and warnings about the decisions being made
  • Too much optimism – the group thinks it’s always right, leading to unnecessary risk taking
  • A tendency to ignore information that will cause difficulties for the group or the actions that it has taken
  • Pressure to avoid criticising the group (either within it or in the wider environment)
  • Increased conflict as the group views outsiders as ‘the enemy’.

How Interim Managers Question the Status Quo

Obviously, an interim manager will only be in the organisation for a fixed period of time so they are more willing to challenge practices, assumptions and outmoded ways of thinking. Whether group think exists in your company or not, interim managers have the ability to contribute new ideas without being regarded as a threat by the existing management team. They’re not in the organisation to show off their skills to land a promotion; their focus is to manage the period of change or transition effectively and leave the business in a better position from that in which they found it.

There is little doubt that an interim manager can have a positive impact upon company culture. Because they have experience of a range of organisations and sectors, they are able to transition into the culture quickly and yet have the fresh perspective to provide an objective analysis of any cultural problems that they encounter. This is one of the major benefits of interim management.

There have been many studies on the importance of company culture within organisational change. A prime example is the NHS, which is regularly reformed by the government of the day to attempt to deal with the growing demand for health care against a backdrop of limited resources. Without addressing cultural and personnel issues, any amendments that are made to processes and systems are more likely to fail.

The Benefits of Interim Management for Delivering Cultural Change

Each interim manager will deploy their own techniques if they are asked to improve organisational culture. However, they will commonly look at the following issues and devise appropriate action plans:

  • How ready executive level managers are to face the need for cultural change
  • What impact that level of readiness has had on the overall workforce’s ability to deal with change
  • Assessing the impact of the existing organisational culture on the company’s customers – and what impact any proposed changes will have on the customer experience
  • Understanding what values and behaviours are required to change the organisation’s culture
  • Looking for change ambassadors – those who have the talent and interpersonal skills to explain the need for change and how those changes will be achieved
  • Actions that will turn around poor practice that has led to cultural problems
  • How well brand identity is aligned with existing culture.

By looking at these and other areas, interim managers are well placed to produce a strategy with will trigger cultural change and bring measurable benefits.

What impact have interim managers had on your company’s culture? What do you think are the cultural benefits of interim management? Please share your experiences below with our community.

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  • A.A.J. Streppel

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