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Here, Martin Schneider from the Brainforce Group tells us more about his company and the benefits of interim management.
The BRAINFORCE Group has been a leader in interim management and expert solutions for almost 40 years. Headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, the company has subsidiaries in Europe, the Baltics, Russia, Africa and Asia, as well as a strong network of partners in the Americas.
In your opinion, how important is it to have first-hand experience of running a business in order to be an effective interim manager and to provide valuable insight to other business leaders?
Business leaders are typically people with strong self-confidence about their knowledge, capabilities and skills. If they realise that their counterpart has an equivalent level of knowledge and experience, they tend to trust and accept them. Interim Managers are usually needed in difficult, non-routine situations. The goal is to achieve sustainable results as quickly as possible, based on their past learning curve, an above-average ability to lead and motivate people, and last but not least – an entrepreneurial mindset. The same way a ‘silverback ranger’ knows his forest inside-out, an interim CEO knows his profession and has been successfully steering operations through tough challenges for years.
Why is an interim manager more effective to optimise organisations? How can cultural and historical challenges be overcome?
I believe that a manager who has previously led, optimised or restructured e.g. three different management structures has a higher success rate to do the same with the fourth management structure. An interim manager comes in with an analytical mind and an unbiased view. He also has no aspirations to stay there forever, which eliminates the negative political aspects. Furthermore, he brings in leadership skills, cultural sensitivity and a portfolio of best practices from his several previous assignments in different company cultures. All these aspects are essential for the success of an interim manager. Once an interim manager “changes sides” and becomes a permanent employee, the dynamics and perceptions around him change. His gaze, as if blinkered, is restricted to the part of the road that lies immediately ahead of him and thus, the value-added of the interim management approach vanishes, from our experience, within one or two years.
An interim manager usually is able to gain the trust of the people in the company within a few weeks due to his seniority, objectivity, empathy, cultural sensitivity and strong professional track record. An interim manager usually gets to know what truly is going on in an organisation amazingly quickly. People start to talk as soon as they realise that the interim manager is there to help and to give the credit for the achievements to the internal people who were actively involved in the project.
What do you find are the most common issues that organisations struggle with, from a management perspective?
In a nutshell, I would say that weaknesses we observe are often connected to weak internal communication, slow decision-making and ‘over-engineered’, rigid and bureaucratic internal processes. An experienced interim manager has learned how to communicate effectively at all levels…….
Martin Schneider began his professional career in Consulting Engineering. He then worked for ABB and ALSTOM in various international functions up to senior management level and restructured a US-based technology company. As of 2004, he’s the CEO of the BRAINFORCE Group, and as of 2007 – its owner.