Over the last few months, we have seen a noticeable increase in the number of interim project and programme managers (PM) being requested by clients - a positive sign in a challenging market. The reasons behind this increase in demand are also interesting.

The Current Market

More businesses are now pushing forward with initiatives and starting to move again on crucial projects, as market confidence slowly returns to certain sectors. For example, we are seeing a real upturn in demand across areas such as health, manufacturing, FMCG, financial services and construction. These companies require experts to help them navigate through business challenges in areas such as corporate restructuring, process re-engineering and mergers or acquisitions. So the need for experienced interim project and programme managers is clear, but what are the skills required to be a successful one?

Stakeholder Management

Being able to understand the motivations and opinions of all stakeholders involved in a project or programme is crucial. Many permanent employees can lack the experience needed to push a programme forward and feel somewhat ambiguous towards an interim. Effective stakeholder engagement means that an interim is able to work effectively within a team to gain buy in, remove blockers and deliver results.

Leading Change

Many interim project and programme managers are brought in to initiate and deliver a change or transformation agenda, which can be a major challenge in any business. Experienced interims know that to embed change successfully in a company not only means putting the correct processes in place, but also championing that change through demonstrating world class leadership and showing how working with best practices achieves success. This in turn gains the buy in of the different stakeholder groups and ensures that any change is sustained by a business, even after an interim’s departure.

Knowledge and Experience

Interim project and programme managers are brought in because of their vast experience and their ability to be objective and flexible. Many will have held CAPEX budgetary responsibility in the past and will also be able to veer and haul a project as appropriate, responding to issues as they have ‘been there before’. Additionally, their ability to do things differently, while not becoming embroiled in the politics that inhabits any business, is key to their capacity to perform.

Not a Permanent Perspective

By their very nature, interims bring a fresh approach and often demonstrate that, while a deep knowledge of the business held by permanent staff may be useful, it is sometimes not enough to successfully drive a project or programme to conclusion.

What do you feel the top skills needed to be successful interim project and programme managers in today’s business environment? Share your experiences below.

photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

  • Jools C

    Good points Sophie. Delivering great work as an interim is ever more challenging, particularly with the ‘quick fix’ (highly unlikely) and drive down price attitude of some clients today. More important than ever to be able to show value, results and focus for clients, as an interim.

    • Sophie Mitchell

      Thanks Jools, appreciate the comment. It is absolutely key to demonstrate the value you bring to any context as an interim and to ensure you are providing value for money.

  • Rob M

    An interesting perspective. Demand for project /program managers is often driven at this stage of the economic cycle by those organisations that have ‘cost cut’ this expertise as non-core. As the cycle builds investment in organic PPM capacity tends to grow.

    • Sophie Mitchell

      Completely agree Rob. Would be great if you would like to write for our blog and give us your view on what is going on in the industry.

  • David Davies

    Good article Sophie,

    I find that many of the assignments for senior Programme Managers are about turnarounds - often a “troubled” programme that was being managed internally by staff with not quite the right experience, or a business unit that isn’t performing as expected. In these situations, one of the key skills is to have an open mind as to the solution.

    Too many times a “consultant” can only deliver their own, off the shelf, model. What a good interim can demonstrate is the ability to leverage our experience in a unique way to fit the circumstances of the assignment, sometimes coming up with really unexpected directions that will yield results. This is a key value proposition, since the client will often have explored all the obvious answers before calling in the interim.

    • Sophie Mitchell

      Thanks David, excellent points and glad you enjoyed the blog. Having an open mind is especially key. Would be great to get your views on what you believe the main challenges are for interims in today’s market so we can share it with our community here. Sophie.