Interim Interview: Alastair Strong
Our Director of Infrastructure, Business & Support Services, Paul Phillips spoke with Alastair Strong.
What is your approach to an interim assignment?
You’ve got to spend time assimilating what’s going in, assessing the brief, asking ‘does the evidence support the perception that the client has?’ I like to spend 5-10 days reviewing the original objectives, outlining a plan and mapping the journey ahead, making sure the client is in agreement. It’s also important to keep assessing additional opportunities, achieve some quick wins, gain trust, and also to form a plan of what the end and the legacy look like.
How does this differ from perm?
You set expectations and define the end point so you know what you’re working towards. You have a singular focus and, therefore, avoid taking on lots of distracting projects which detract from your ability to deliver on your primary outcomes. You always keep an eye on when’s the right time to pull out rather than elongating your position!
Does independence allow you to deliver a project better?
As a permanent member of staff you are more inclined to temper the tough message whereas you feel less obliged to do so as an interim. You are more focused on achieving an objective.
What’s the toughest decision you made?
Having said the above, staff selection in the team restructure was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. You’re there to deliver outcomes but affecting people’s lives can be tough.
What would be the hardest part of the transition from perm to interim?
Depending on the role, sometimes lacking the authority of a permanent member of the management team can be hard. You sometimes have to defer to others because of lack of power. Certain messages need to be delivered by permanent staff to land well and ensure they are taken seriously. However one-to-one meetings are becoming a very important part of comms/engagement to reinforce the strategic message.
What three things do you need to be successful as an interim?
You need to be a very good listener, thorough in defining a range of options to a solution and collaborative to ensure the client and staff engage with your plan.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Taking the waste disposal problem, which was thrust upon me at the last minute, turning it around and demonstrating that a small problem could be project-managed with ease whilst not being a distraction.
What would you like to invent?
An FM software that is user friendly and works!
What is your greatest strength / weakness?
My strength is seeing the long term goal and my weakness is needing to be harder with those affected by the change.
Did you find the ROI objective format helpful?
The ROI objectives were very useful and matched my own process of defining clear objectives. It took some work at the outset to define the objectives and milestone but it was totally worth it. They provided rigour and kept everyone involved focused on big deliverables.