Interim Management: What Makes it Effective?

Coker Group provides interim management services for a variety of roles and types of organizations, and we are often asked to establish whether interim management is the best strategy for the situation at hand. When considering interim management, it’s crucial to identify the needs and objectives in addition to finding the right resource for the job. Unique circumstances for each scenario determine whether we recommend interim management versus a project team versus remote support or other solutions. While there are many appropriate scenarios for utilizing interim management,  it is critical to establish expectations, prioritize objectives, and measure or define success.

When utilizing an interim manager, clearly identifying the scope and priorities is fundamental to mutually successful outcomes. Leadership gaps or transitions are probably the most common and/or obvious drivers of interim management needs, and often the interim is asked to “fill in” for a leadership vacancy without well-defined objectives. Sometimes the intentions are uncertain and need to be identified by the interim leader once onboard, but a defined scope of priorities and deliverables are essential for the manager and the organization.

We have noticed an increasing interest in interim management for impermanent roles. Many smaller groups or health systems cannot afford and should not require a veteran C-suite leader for a permanent administrator role, but existing leadership may not have the expertise or experience to lead the organization to the desired state. Many leaders are capable of captaining the operational boat, yet those leaders are often incapable of building the ship. A supplementary interim leader can effectively advance an organization’s strategic initiatives without carrying the full burden of daily management responsibilities.

Successful interim leaders are more than just seat fillers and should add a unique perspective and value. Depending on the scope of the role and duration of the engagement, it may be tough to do it all. We like to establish the core functions of a role that are critical to sustain operations and then prioritize a short list of improvement initiatives or deliverables for the interim leader. This initiative not only helps the interim leader stay focused, but it helps manage expectations for the organization’s other leaders, providers, and staff. Navigating the political and cultural dynamics of an organization is a crucial skill for successful interim leadership. Effective interims are excellent communicators and maintain an objective perspective throughout their tenure. Interim leaders typically step into somewhat turbulent situations with a variety of stakeholders to work with or manage. An objective pursuit of the organization’s best interest may be the only common ground to work from and helps avoid complications of serving individual interests.

The final important step of any interim role is to transition out and sustain the positive results or improvements that have been achieved. We often help recruit and onboard permanent leaders or restructure roles and responsibilities to function without the interim role moving forward. Interim leaders should always “teach an organization to fish”1 and provide as much support as they depart as was required as they entered the scene.

If you’d like to learn more about interim leadership options or how our physician services team can support your EPN, please contact us.

  1. Note: It is better to teach people how to do something themselves than to just do it for them. This expression is just part of the full proverb, If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. Accessed June 24, 2019.

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