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People problems call for people solutions

I recently attended an event hosted by Interims North and led by the Restructuring and Advisory team at RSM (Baker Tilly, if you haven’t had your eye on the news in the past month or two). 

It was a fascinating session which demystified the work that restructuring professionals do. Used in the right way (and at the right time) they can give business leaders the support in a number of ways, including:

  • Assessment of the issues and problems
  • Identification of strategic and operational options available
  • Recommendation, agreement and implementation of solutions

First, let’s take a look at some the common causes for a business to hit the rocks. Yes, there are   competitive, macro-economic, technological, sector and product issues whereby what was indeed a sound business plan is no longer fit for purpose and any competitive edge has eroded overnight.

Think Kodak, Betamax, The Milkman, Blockbuster.

Whilst these are all tough to take, it is usually a widespread problem affecting many, if not all, businesses in that particular sector. 

The single most common problem discussed on the night was people. In some case it was felt that a particular function had issues, but invariably it’s the person or people carrying out the function that are the problem, as opposed to the function itself. 

People problems are great – the best problem to have in fact. Solution: change the people.  

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you fire your entire workforce and replace them with Interim Managers. That’s not sustainable, morally right or indeed a sound business decision. 

What I am suggesting is that you can almost guarantee that in every failing business there will be one or two (sometimes more) people crying out for help. These are people who have been over promoted, forced into a new role as part one of the many reorganisations, or haven’t had the requisite amount of training. 

Whatever the reason for them being on the wrong seat on the bus, they are. By moving them to one side, and parachuting in some support, you won’t be punishing them. In fact, aside from a potential dint in their pride, they’re likely to be grateful. Oh, and you might just save your business. 

An Interim Manager is usually a subject matter expert with experience of operating at a very senior level. This means they can quickly identify and solve problems, effect organisational change and - where the brief calls for it - leave a lasting legacy.

My job as Principal in Infrastructure, Business & Support Services is to ask the right questions, understand the situation and use my experience to recommend the best solution. Sometimes the answer is complex, sometimes simple, but it always involves the same ingredients as the problem: people.

What do you think? Do you have any good examples of solving ‘people problems’?  

Robert Smith is the Principal for Infrastructure, Business & Support Services at Interim Partners.

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