17 years ago I left the UK railway industry. I spent 13 years there, joining as a management trainee, leaving in 1997 with the legacy of designing, steering through, choppy political waters and delivering the Uber successful and award winning National Rail Enquiry Service. A service that is still running today successfully a proud legacy from my work there as it’s first employee and project & scheme manager.
This May we will have 5 years of a UK parliament in which no serving MP has been arrested, sent to prison or sanctioned under the new MPs expenses scheme another legacy of my work in leading operational and strategic leadership of the new MPs scheme and operational people, process and technology to deliver it. I with my team delivered a scheme that ensured that the UK Public can have confidence once again that MPs are not putting their hand in the till at the taxpayers expense.
But so what? I hear you say, great legacy but what does it mean. Well for me as a seasoned interim with a track record of delivering change programmes that transformed services and “put things right” I have a legacy. I have delivered the benefits many years after the projects were delivered. The operations are still running and many with the staff that I trained. But can all interims claim a legacy?
An interim’s legacy led nicely to a conversation I had with a dear friend who asked me the question “How should I interview and drill down into the capability of an interim manager”
It is all about the legacy! No tangible legacy? Then why would you touch them with a barge pole? Would Chelsea FC ever appoint a manager with no track record, no legacy in delivery or empowering a team to deliver after they had gone?
So a simple method I devised states that there are 3 things in interview you should probe every person who knocks on your door and says I am an interim manager.
To make it easier for you I call it my 3 “E” approach.
When you left was the organisation/project/product:
Effective: Did you leave it fit for purpose?
Endurable: Is it still going and if not why not?
Empowered: Did you leave an empowered workforce when you left who could run the show when you were gone?
You’re interim resource should be able to show:
Effective: They should be able to prove that after they left that the project, product or organisation their outcomes was effective. It did the job you were asked.
Did the outcome of the project achieve the objectives of interim assignment? If for example the outcomes were to build a team that increased sales by 50%, or saved 50% did it reach those objectives? Challenge the interim to prove that the project succeeded, and if it failed why?
In my case the major objective of the new MPs Expenses scheme was to ensure that there was not a repeat of the MPs Expenses scandal – I can safely say I tick that box.
Endurable: This is linked to an effective conclusion, but more important you don’t want to touch the interim that has left an organisation in a right mess, financially unstable, or not delivering objectives. All too often I see leaders who have led organisations clearly in trouble and move quickly onto the next only to cause havoc elsewhere.
No one wants a present that breaks on Boxing Day after all just after your Great Auntie has left!
So really probe the interims performance either in interim or perm roles and see if the organisation they left is still operating or the product/service they claim to have delivered is still operating.
In the case of the new MPs expenses scheme, and the organisation we established IPSA it is still running and have confidence of the public a key benefit of the organisation.
Empowered: This is a key role of an interim to build a capability within your client’s team to run the operation successfully after you have gone through skills transfer and knowledge.
Probe who took over from them, what was their role in coaching and mentoring staff, what was their leadership style like.
In my own case in Plymouth I handed over my Programme to an internal member of staff, and coached project managers to have the skills and confidence now to deliver projects long after I am gone.
So in conclusion if you want to get it right start asking the right questions:
Show me the Effectiveness of projects you have worked on?
Are the projects/products still going, are they Endurable?
Did you empower the staff you left behind?
These are the three questions you should start asking candidates this week if you want a real measure of Interim performance, rather than “give me an example of when you have to deal with a difficult situation” ….I have been an interim for 17 years how many examples do you need, they are all difficult!
Be brave and I dare you to ask, “what is your legacy” as an interim.
Nigel Gooding MCMI is managing partner at Fifth Consultancy and a leading business transformation professional who lists the National Rail Enquiry Service, the new MPs Expenses Scheme amongst his impressive CV.