Transition management is developing and changing. Far from the old ideas that would have you believe Executive Interim to be the preserve of mercenaries and the kingdom of heavy transformation situations, Alban Azzopardi offers an alternative version. One that considers work in project mode. One where a generation – generation Y – is starting to take over the control of businesses.
Transition management has evolved in line with new work forms. In what way?
First of all, we need to do away with the idea, still common in many firms, that a transition manager is a mercenary. It is not the status that counts, but rather the function. Being a transition manager is not in itself a guarantee of professionalism. While it is not impossible that a mercenary mindset can be a key to success in a fast and complex change context, it does not supplant professional expertise, it complements it. This means the Executive Interim firm needs to identify a manager’s capability to carry out their job at a specific moment in a temporary manner.
The role of the consultancy is to detect the expertise to deal with the given assignment and the candidate’s capacity to work in project mode.
“Being a transition manager is not a profession, it is a specific way of doing your job. “
So is there an important mental aspect over and above the professional skills?
Of course. This is true in any recruitment but the more so in transition management. Being able to take the right decisions in sometimes stormy contexts, while controlling the environment, knowing how to work in project mode, in a team, being able to deploy a range of assets that include confidence, determination and adaptation while managing one’s emotions, these are the characteristics of a good transition manager.
Our role is to check these qualities in addition to the technical skills. The Athlete Thinking methodology that Grant Alexander has developed to deal with and develop the mental dimensions of candidates is an advantage in this respect. But once again, being a mercenary is not an end in itself; being a transition manager is not a profession, it is a specific way of doing your job!
If it isn’t mercenarism, then how would you define transition management?
It is the head-hunting spirit adapted to the project mode. This involves providing the correct external expertise to meet a specific requirement. The difference is the temporality: in Executive Search, it takes a few weeks or maybe a few months to find someone who will stay for several years on a permanent contract and develop within the company whereas, in Executive Interim, you only have a few days to propose someone who will only stay a few months. Moreover the assignment is based on a specific perspective which is not always to occupy a position in its totality. More and more transition managers have not made a deliberate career choice to work in assignment mode, but this corresponds to their career at a given moment in their professional lives, with real added-value for the company.
Would it be true to say that this balancing act is a concept that corresponds to Executive Interim?
Yes and no. Regarding our consulting intervention, it is true that we need agility and foresight. However, as regards the assignments to be filled, this is far from always being the case.
Thinking that Executive Interim necessarily corresponds to heavy transformation situations remains an outdated stereotype. Managerial relay is a common reason for resorting to transition management. Nonetheless, while the context is less of a balancing act, the issues are just as crucial for a company as those of a corporate restructuring: an executive manager is an essential mechanism in the management of a company and their absence may be critical.
Moreover, these concepts are not mutually exclusive: a transformation assignment in a crisis situation must nearly always be followed by a relay period; and a relay assignment may result in a transformation that needs to be managed. Renovation is sometimes more difficult than reconstruction.
“The head-hunting spirit adapted to the project mode. “
Where do consulting and monitoring processes fit in in your model?
It is the candidate who ensures the success of the assignment. The methodology provided by the consultancy firm must be an asset to improve assignment leadership and profitability, not a prerequisite made up of regulatory procedures with no added-value.
Our consultancy role is to provide the talent adapted to the situation and to support effective roll-out of the assignment. Our philosophy is to supervise the pertinence and smooth running of the relationship between the manager and the company without seeking to take over. It is based on a relationship that is respectful, clear, ethical and lasting.
The candidate is not a “white label sold by an Executive Interim firm”, but a partner who, for each assignment and to the same extent as the firm, puts its reputation on the line. Our relationship with the transition managers and the clients is based on trust and transparency.
How will transition management fit into the future ways of working?
Work in project mode is becoming more common given the fast changes in markets. A transition manager is an individual who moves through the business world with flexibility and a high capacity to adapt. Today we are seeing managers taking up management positions who are from generation Y, which is made up of professionals who are globally very comfortable with project mode working.
Indeed, for this generation, transition assignment is merely one way of carrying out their profession at a given moment, which does not exclude them from working on a permanent basis when they feel driven by a corporate project.
At Grant Alexander, the four pillars of transition management are:
- agility (in the search),
- pertinence (of the profile),
- flexibility (of the contractual format),
- expertise (of the candidate).
May 2017 – Alban Azzopardi is Associate founder of Grant Alexander Executive Interim.