We were having a conversation with an executive recently who shared about their experience parachuting into a business that was struggling with operational inefficiencies.
This executive, like many interims, kicked off the assignment by meeting face-to-face with the management team and employees to learn how the business functions, what’s working, and what isn’t. Their findings would turn into an operational roadmap of the business, where they would set out and implement a go-forward plan. When meeting with one team member and learning about what they did, the executive pointed to a process they had in place asking “why do you do that?”
The answer: “Because we’ve always done it that way”
(Alarm bells begin to loudly ring)
One sign of future decline in a business could be a business as usual mindset: when there is no clear shared vision on why you do what you do and why your company even exists.
Many times when an interim gets called in, it’s because something is not working – maybe the business is just struggling to survive. And when you dig deeper, the solutions in many cases sit with the people in the organization. But signs of drone mentality where team members get in the mode of just going through the motions can mean disaster if an intervention does not happen fast.
An interim’s job is not only to create a clear strategy and roadmap, but to earn the trust and buy in of the team. Once arrows are pointed in the right direction, it’s amazing what can be accomplished with a change of momentum.
An Interim CEO deployed into a failing manufacturing business heard the operations manager describe how changing the culture and making shifts in the company’s plan ultimately helped turn around the struggling business: “We got the preparation we never had before because the new CEO was so open to helping the average employee do a better job. The team feels like they are of value versus before when the management team kind of stayed on this hill and people couldn’t reach out the them.”
One of the biggest things an interim will gauge before accepting an interim position is the support of the owner and board to support change and transformation – if that is what is needed to get to the next level. Hearing “that’s not how we do this” can be music to the interim’s ears – so long as owners get behind a transformative plan of action.
For the manufacturing company, owners and employees rallied around the executive and the plan they put in place. “I truly think we wouldn’t have stayed competitive,” the operations manager continued, saying that the company probably wouldn’t have expanded or even be here today without outside help.
For owners, investors, and board members considering bringing an interim on board, ask yourself: “are you stuck in how things have always been done?”