I have two books I regularly refer to for inspiration. The first was written over 2000 years ago and the other a more recent work published in 1963. How can such reading inspire me? Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War (ISBN 0-19-501476-6) highlights the broad thinking required to both prepare and execute a business strategy. The second is by David Ogilvy Confessions of an Advertising Man (ISBN 9 781904 915010) and talks principally about customers. Strategy and customers make a powerful combination and combined correctly should be the life-blood of any organisation.
The white noise and chaos of a business in distress or underperforming can overwhelm the unprepared and for that reason it is very important to ensure proper selection of the interim resource you plan to work with. Sun Tzu suggests “that nothing is more important to winning battles than to employ the shock troops, the so-called agitators’. Arguably the reference to ‘shock troops’ could easily be replaced with ‘interims’ and getting the right people on board.
The uninitiated interim tends to be sidetracked by irrelevant events or issues within a client business and can become bogged down with minutiae and the ever present politics. So choosing the right interim for your business is absolutely essential and one-size does not fit all.
Key to my success in delivering client satisfaction as an interim has been my child-like behaviour of asking the ‘why’ question. I tend to ask a lot of questions of the client before taking the assignment, and have ruled myself out of projects, because frankly I would did not have the skill set or capability the client needed. If time permits you want as much input from the executive team as can be achieved on what success looks like to them and some alignment on the minimum desired outcome. So ask yourself as the client or the interim provider – ‘do you ask enough relevant questions’ to properly determine the brief and what success will actually look like.
To close interim management is a state of mind and if you have not got the right attitude, are not objective, not thorough and above all not true then all is lost. Ogilvy captured this brilliantly and said “the recommendations we make to our clients are the recommendations we would make if we owned their companies, without regard to our own interest”. This helps separate the professionals from the amateurs and is a constant reminder when I am on assignment to focus on the outcome and above all else the success of the clients business.