- Interim Managers are quick to read the organisation

With more than 30 years of experience as a manager for a number of companies, Per Nygaard has managed many organisations through challenging restructuring processes. One of the things he has learned how to do is to quickly read the organisation, which he believes to be a major strength for managers wishing to generate results in a short time.

"As an Interim Manager you will be operational from the very first hour on the job. It often strikes me as I walk down the corridor for the first time how easy it is to read an organisation. You do not read it in the same way if you have been there for a number of years," Nygaard explains.

Interim Managers get a lot done in a short period of time

"Being able to understand the full picture from the very beginning is often the basis for managing to get things done in a much shorter time. The purpose of the Interim Manager is to get things done and to achieve something with the mandate they have been given. In more than 50 percent of cases the mandate will change as a result of the Interim Manager coming on board with new eyes and being able to make a better diagnosis than the Board of Directors has managed to do," Nygaard reflects.

Per Nygaard describes himself as a "hard-nosed economist at heart". He has done his time running around on factory floors and out on installations and believes that current requirements mean that you must be just as good at PowerPoint and strategies as at facilitating practical work in production.

"I have been involved in a great deal of things and have worked with all aspects of everything relating to strategy, market development, sales and negotiations. My profile means that I am able to join a company as CEO or CFO and I am often responsible for project management, which is what I am working on now," Nygaard explains.

The companies he has been involved with include Ernst & Young, Hafslund, Skanska, ISS and REC Solar, amongst others.

Interim CEO with a restructuring assignment

For one of the assignments, Nygaard was head-hunted for a six-month assignment as the interim CEO of a large, national company with several hundred employees. He would be holding the fort until the new CEO was in place.

"The day after I signed the contract there was a management conference for the entire country and I was expected to chair it. The situation was critical and it was important to find a solution as quickly as possible. I went online to read up about the company but I didn't become much wiser. The language used was visionary but fairly vague. When I entered the stage my message was: 'We need to go back to basics and be what we are'. I evidently hit the bull’s eye and the employees were on board from that very first moment.

Nygaard convened another management conference a week later and just two weeks after that the Chairman of the Board received a rather demanding cost-cutting and restructuring programme on their desk.

"My mandate was to take the helm for a few months and I understood that there were great risks involved with running such a large restructuring if a new manager were to come in afterwards and change everything around again. I explained this to the Board of Directors and they bought into the programme as a "suit" that the new manager would be jumping straight into. When the new CEO came along he was clearly impressed by what we had managed in such a short time and the basis he had to work with when he joined."

3 success factors for Interim Managers

Per Nygaard highlights three success factors that he considers crucial to succeeding as an Interim Manager and getting things done:

1. Pace
It is important to keep the pace up. If you manage to get people to listen they will also develop expectations and this must be utilised in order to make things happen. When people can see that things are happening, the positive ones will become even more positive and the negative ones will often be phased out in one way or another.

2. Create the ability to get things done
The ultimate question is “How?”. The answer is that you need to be able to read the situation and obtain the necessary tools. In one of my assignments I quickly realised that the majority of the management team needed to be replaced. I needed to obtain support from the Board of Directors so that this could be done. You cannot manage such processes on your own – you need to get the organisation on board and obtain their consent for what you are doing. 

3. Psychology
It is important not to create resistance. I often say that "we need to find some good solutions". How to manage the psychology could constitute an extensive article in itself and there is no set answer. Sometimes you need to be crystal clear and almost too obvious in order to succeed at communicating a message. This often initiates discussion and discussions can result in better solutions. The point is that you need to be able to get people on board if you want to succeed with changes. You cannot stand on the edge of the 18-yard box when the rest of the team is in the changing rooms.