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Interim Management

Published on April 28th, 2014 | by Chris Lain


Interim Strikes Again: Why David Moyes was not the Problem at Man United

Management recruitment when handled properly puts the right person in the right role. When done badly, problems invariably arise.  In my opinion Man Utd’s management recruitment process was far more at fault than David Moyes himself. Had the Red Devils utilised successful management recruitment practices, their current season could have been very different.

Having worked in recruitment, management recruitment, and interim management for the last 10 years, I have seen many different methods for hiring and firing – but the recruiting and subsequent removal of David Moyes at Manchester United recently, highlights a definitive list of what not to do.

So, after a very poor season, Moyes is gone and Giggs has been given the interim role. Now, no one is predicting that Giggs will go permanent – he is the classic interim safe pair of hands – and the speculation as to who will take over full time will be fervent. Meanwhile, Manchester United plc has the opportunity to reflect on what went wrong in this high profile recruitment – and there are lessons for all businesses to be learned.

The Right Management Recruitment Process

Whether interim or permanent, the majority of our clients will have a rigid governance procedure - person specifications, job descriptions and most importantly a firm idea of exactly the kind of person they need to fill the role. More often than not, there will be series of interviews with key stakeholders to ensure the right decision is made. Ignoring this simple process was the first mistake Man United made.

Management Recruitment: Handpicked is Harmful

Effectively, Moyes was personally handpicked by Ferguson to succeed him. Although a manager of Fergusons’ tenure and stature was always expected to have a say in his replacement, his complete dominance of the process was a grave and short-sighted error by Manchester United’s owners. With this in mind, there can definitely be some blame attributed to Ferguson for Moyes’ failure, but blame must also lie moreover with the Glazier family and exec board.

The Right Experience

As well as having the right management recruitment process in place, as part of this there should have been rigorous assessment criteria around achievement. Our clients are rightly insistent on having the candidate with the most suitable experience and successful track record – and the management of Man Utd should have been the same.

How was David Moyes assessed outside of Ferguson? What criteria were applied? Look at his track record: a player in both Scottish and English clubs gave him a solid knowledge base of the game, but what of his record as a manager? How did he reach the heights of Man Utd? Did Fergie see a younger version of himself in Moyes?

Did Moyes have Managerial Success?

Yes he had gained all the right manager badges and did the study required to be qualified – but for me, his achievements as a manager do not stack up to a Man Utd manager. While he may have eventually guided Preston successfully from Division Two to Division One, he was unable to take them to the lofty heights of the Premiership. At his ten years at Everton, he guided them to an all time high of fourth in the league and qualification to the UEFA Champions league, but still no major silverware.

Moyes broke transfer records, won League Manager Awards and got to finals and semi finals producing some amazing statistics of tenure – but tangible, professional success at the top level has eluded him and this has been borne out in an incredibly poor season at Old Trafford – but there were other circumstances at play.

Unfortunately for Moyes, his tenure began at the same time as Edward Woodward who was also feeling his way into a new role as CEO. So the succession planning of losing two experienced, key figures in Fergie and David Gill has to be questioned. So what is MUFCs next move?

Recruiting by Reputation and Results

The key lesson that the club need to learn is the importance of governance in the management recruitment process. Man Utd may be a football club but is also a $3.1bn business. This is a global brand, a business that needs a robust management recruitment process. In short, Moyes may have had a good reputation, but he did not have the results to support it.

The whole episode underlines for me the importance in any business of effective selection process and choosing a candidate that has a good track record of achievement, and is comfortable at operating at the highest level. After all, Manchester United is not just a club, not just a business – it’s an institution, and must be run as such.

And I say that as a Wolves fan.

Do you feel a better manager would have been appointed if Man Utd had utilised the same management recruitment processes that successful corporations use?  Or was Moyes a victim of the need for quick results at one of the world’s biggest clubs? Please leave your comments below.

 Photo Credit: agenziavision

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About the Author

Chris' work focuses mainly in the private sector where he has the responsibility for identifying and assessing candidates for specific roles and the delivery of interim assignments, whilst also establishing long term, mutually beneficial relationships with candidates and clients across a variety of industries.

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