Change management in the public sector

As a former officer in the Norwegian Armed Forces, Tor Hylin has broad experience. This spans military management and strategic crisis management in Afghanistan to the international, political climate at the NATO HQ in Brussels. An experience base that he has made great use of as an interim manager.

Most of the assignments announced to the InterimLeder database of 1400 managers are within the private sector. But when a public sector company was looking for an interim Head of Department to manage the restructuring of a department, Hylin felt a calling and had to act.


Following a merger, one of the main challenges was to reconcile two very different corporate cultures with regard to both professional and administrative procedures. The challenge was enhanced due to geographical separation from head office, weaknesses relating to systematisation in the change process and the lack of a permanent head. The solution was to enquire with InterimLeder to get an interim manager in place with the necessary experience to ensure progress during the change process until the position could be permanently filled.

Expertise requirements

The management position in the department in question has traditionally been held by someone with extensive professional expertise. In this situation, other qualities had to be emphasised in order to bring the change process back on track, including experience of change management and an understanding of the correlation between process and organisation. As it was a government organisation, administrative expertise was an essential requirement. It was also important to ensure that the changes were rooted in the organisation and that the interim manager had the ability to generate trust, authority and was able to communicate well with employees. After interviewing several qualified candidates, Hylin was chosen.

Challenges and results

Initially, I chose to get an overview of the situation through meetings with management at head office and all employees in the department.
"I soon realised that the challenge was to change the mindset in the department and implement the procedures and culture required for a government organisation," Hylin explains.
"For the first couple of months we focused on understanding of roles, i.e. who the department works for and what it involves. We have also worked to continue to adapt to the positive procedures relating to the understanding of regulations and administration that are in place at head office."
"You should really ask the management about the results but the feedback from employees and management is that the use of an interim manager for this situation has had a positive impact."

Interim management in the public sector

Interim management is widespread on the continent but not quite as common in Norway. Even less so in the public sector, something that needs to change, according to Hylin:
"Objectively, I think that more public sector companies should consider the use of interim management. The assignment I was hired for is unlikely to be unique. They were faced with an emergency situation where there were frankly no good options other than interim management. Some choose to temporarily appoint the next person in the hierarchy when looking for a new manager. This is not always an optimal solution, in part because the transition from colleague to superior can create friction in itself. It can also lead to an expectation on the part of the employee where they believe that they have automatic preference when it comes to filling the role. When this happens, it can be difficult to return to their old role. If you hire an interim manager you are under no obligation to keep them on and the flexibility is completely different and provides you with much more freedom to act," Hylin concludes.