Proactive Support in Temporary Management

Introduction

Our recent survey of Italian temporary managers found that the strongest factors for project success were clear objectives, company resources and owner support.  Figuratively speaking they were the wheel that the  temporary manager had to push for project success. The slope of the hill changed with the difficulty  of the project but the virtuous cycle of  gaining  support, getting resources and continuously re-confirming objectives remained the same.

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The owner had an important role in successful projects but our survey also found that owner support had the highest variance from “project to project”, which suggested that there was no standard approach or “standard client”. Temporary management was not a “magic potion” that transformed the company whilst the owner sat back and observed! On the contrary, he/she played an active part in the project, collaborated effectively with the temporary manager and gave owner support. It should be noted that the owner was usually the head of the household (family run businesses accounted for 85% of all Italian economic activity).

What we did

An objective definition of owner support and a common language was needed for evaluation and identification of eventual issues. We organized a focus group of 10 experienced temporary managers to define attributes that described owner support. Around one hundred issues were generated and then sorted syntactically into a group of attributes.

What was owner support?

The attribute groups were: company leader, team player, family leader and trust.

  1. Company Leader, shown when the owner:

    • explained his/her vision for the company in a consistent manner

    • saw the complete picture and was not focused on small details

    • gave realistic objectives within realistic times.

    • sustained in public the temporary manager/ project and motivated the team

    • delegated tasks within the company and to the temporary manager.

    • decided to make heartfelt changes to the company he/she created

    • understood the risks of the change

    • requested the temporary manager to define the project in terms of costs/benefits, resources and planning.

    • reconsidered previous negative evaluations of company employees

  2. Team Player, shown when the owner:

    • completed the actions given him by the temporary manager

    • dedicated adequate time to listen to and inform the temporary manager

    • communicated directly to the temporary manager and not via company employees

    • communicated clearly and consistently with the temporary manager

    • understood that the temporary manager was not a competitor

    • held no racial or sexual discrimination

  3. Family Leader, shown when the owner:

    • resolved conflicts within his own family

    • acted as spokesperson for his family

    • acted as spokesperson for other investors

    • motivated the family as team members in the project

    • reconsidered previous negative evaluations of family members

  4. Trust with the temporary manager, shown when the owner:

    • spoke frankly about his/her company vision

    • admitted personal weaknesses and did not see the temporary manager as a competitor

    • was open about real company problems, also its’ issues of human relationships

    • explained fully the financial and economic figures

    • shared commercial information

    • spoke openly about the strengths and weaknesses of his/her company

    • made financial investments that were proposed by the temporary manager

    • encouraged the temporary manager to talk openly with all employees (without exception)

What we found

The ideal company owner was a team player in the project but still functioned as a company leader. He was also the family leader who presented a unified position to the temporary manager and had a relationship of trust with him/her. In some situations the owner was a collaborative team member preparing reports, in others was the head of the family resolving conflicts between siblings and then returned to being company leader for a balance sheet review!

How many owners were properly informed about the roles he/she had in the project?

Well the answer to that rhetorical question was “not very many”

What next?

We are including owner support in the project road map to explain the owners’ role (company leader, team player or family leader) in the various stages of the journey. A checklist will be used to monitor the owner support during the project and identify corrective actions. With this proactive approach we want our customers more engaged in their temporary management projects.

[Jonathan Selby and the focus group]