Interim management: emergency solution, no way!

Leadership and Organizational Development

Is a consultant also capable of interim management? Of course! If the job requirements match the consultant’s profile, it is a great solution. Staufen consultant Dr. Björn Falk demonstrated how well this works during his assignment with the experts for joining technology: the Böllhoff Group.

Time was running out when Böllhoff GmbH in Bielefeld began looking for an interim manager at the end of last year. The family-run company needed to fill a senior position in quality management at short notice. They were looking for a successor for the challenging task of ensuring and managing customer quality. But Managing Director Marcel Rupprecht did not want to put himself under pressure in his search for the right person. The requirements profile for the new permanent manager should be well thought out and the position filled without stressing, also to ensure long-lasting leadership and responsibility for the team.

Management experience, hands-on mentality as well as expertise and methodological competence

Marcel Rupprecht Marcel Rupprecht came up with the idea of using an interim manager first. “Böllhoff already had good experience with this in other areas, such as sales, purchasing and logistics,” says Managing Director Rupprecht. “We always chose this option when urgent and important issues came up.” So employing a temporary manager was not unusual. That the position would be filled at short notice by a management consultant, however, was something new. How was this choice made? Marcel Rupprecht: “The demands on an interim manager’s flexibility, empathy, ability to cope with stress and specialist knowledge are generally particularly high.” Together with Böllhoff’s HR team, the managing director developed a requirements profile for the interim manager and spoke with Staufen consultants, who at the time were working in-house to support Böllhoff in a change project. It quickly became apparent that someone from the Staufen AG management team had just the right profile: Dr Björn Falk, Industry Manager for the mechanical engineering sector. His profile impressed the Böllhoff managing director: “He had a mixture of management experience, hands-on mentality as well as expertise and methodological competence in quality management,” Marcel Rupprecht remembers.

The Böllhoff Group in figures

WA valuable sparring partner for management

SchnA meeting was quickly arranged in Bielefeld and Björn Falk took up the post as interim manager in January 2021. “To bridge the vacancy, I was initially given a mandate for three months with the option to extend,” said the Staufen consultant. “In addition to complaints, the entire area of customer quality management was part of my job. That is unique. Giving an external person so much responsibility in customer contact requires a great deal of trust, because he or she also represents the company to the outside world.”

The managing director of Böllhoff explains the quick decision in favor of Björn Falk and his competencies as follows: “It is a mixture of well-founded expertise and personality that also supports me as a sparring partner. He is a type of manager who integrated very quickly and is digitally savvy.” Filling the position on a temporary basis gave him enough leeway to look for a suitable successor and also the opportunity to get to know Böllhoff and make a decision with no rush. “Looking back, I’m glad Staufen proactively approached us and offered us this interim solution.”

OOnboarding during the pandemic

Onboarding the interim manager was complicated by the COVID-19 crisis. With 100 percent of employees working from home, Mr. Falk initially hardly got to know anyone in person, says Rupprecht. Instead, he said, he quickly found digital avenues and built a network through videoconferencing and phone calls. Overall, the interim manager was well received by both managers and employees in the family business. The Böllhoff “passion for successfully joining” not only applies to the products, but also to the corporate culture: “I have received a lot of positive feedback, both from long-standing employees and from those who have not been with us for very long. They all welcomed the solution of an interim manager and continue to appreciate Björn Falk.”

But there were also points of friction in the beginning. Marcel Rupprecht: “They are unavoidable.” When someone sets out to quickly achieve goals and consistently apply their expertise, they sometimes step into the personal comfort zone of other colleagues. “If done in a respectful manner this also has a positive aspect.” The interim manager used new methods and skills to move the team forward and, through constructive criticism and empathy, ensured that no one was left behind. The managing director also likes his ability to think outside the box: “In addition to his primary area of responsibility, Mr. Falk also took care of issues such as employee training and development.”

“The demands on an interim manager’s flexibility, empathy, ability to cope with stress and specialist knowledge are generally particularly high.”

Böllhoff GmbH – Service provider for fasteners

Succession planning without losing knowledge

The interim manager’s positive impression and realization that a permanent successor for the quality management executive position would not be quickly found during the COVID-19 crisis led to the mandate being extended into the summer. Björn Falk became more and more involved in the selection of his successor. And that’s not all: To prevent losing knowledge during the transition, the Staufen consultant will be tasked with onboarding his successor and assisting him or her during the familiarization process.

Have the requirements for the successor’s profile changed as a result of the interim manager’s assignment? “Yes,” says Marcel Rupprecht. “Mr. Falk’s way of working showed us that we didn’t just need someone who knew about quality methods.” In the area of complaints management, for example, he has brought reporting to the management to a new level. He also consistently assumed responsibility for interface management and the skills of individual team members, he said. “That’s why we have placed additional emphasis in the recruiting process on finding a manager with enough empathy to know how to make employees stronger and better.”

Entrepreneurial decision instead of focus on costs

Böllhoff Managing Director Rupprecht would rely on an interim manager again in a similar situation, even if this solution incurs additional costs: “In the past, a decision would have been made for other employees and managers to temporarily take over the activities for cost reasons when searching for a successor. But wellapplied interim management allows us to acquire new knowledge for the company in the long term, for example with regard to modern working methods, or even different hierarchical thinking. The entire team and I personally have learned a lot from Björn Falk.” His conclusion: Employing an interim manager should not be an expensive emergency solution, but always a well-thought-out business decision.

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