GOiNTERIM asks – Interim Managers answer
The interim management market is currently in a very active phase – many projects, great demand and more topics in all areas. With this series of interviews, we want to crystallize the challenges and all facets of interim projects based on a survey of experienced interim managers. The aim is to show the variety and spectrum from the managers’ point of view and thus also to obtain valuable info for customers and their needs.
- Where can Interim Management be used?
- What are important issues for success?
- What do you have to watch out for as a customer?
Interview with Dr. Bodo Antonic, Executive Interim Manager
Mr. Antonic, you were awarded Interim Manager of the Year 2023 at this year’s KIM 2023 – Conference for Interim Management. I would like to congratulate you once again! You have been active in interim management for over 20 years as an experienced crisis and turnaround manager. Its focus is on the performance triangle of life sciences crisis/reorganization/sales orientation, i.e. always in tense situations.
One of the statements you made around the nomination stuck in my mind quite emphatically: “I am deeply convinced that we make companies better/crisis-proof when we run them as if there were a crisis all the time.”
Do you really want to do that to companies and employees – to be constantly in crisis?
Even though no one may want to hear it, the answer is “yes” in the expanded version. Let me briefly elaborate on that. Crisis in the narrower sense is defined as a condition characterized by the fact that the outcome is uncertain and can also be fatal. Of course, no one can want this kind of crisis, neither for themselves, their employees, colleagues, etc., nor for the company itself. In the broader sense, however, crisis is a more or less significant deviation from the desired state of calm, “everybody loves each other,” and nothing hurts anybody. We are talking about paralyzed and paralyzed organizations. It is comfortable, one has settled in, a “comfortable misery” prevails everywhere.
But this is the condition that causes companies to lose their economic resilience and exit the market at the end of the day. This costs security, profit, taxes, etc. and is therefore to be avoided urgently. The opposite – and this is the condition I wish for all of us – is that of a constant gymnastics, a constant distraction from the comfortable center. And this is also exactly the condition that keeps us fit, that allows companies to survive. Therefore, the disruption of the system enterprise becomes one of the most important activities of management. Yes, crisis is uncomfortable, but I doubt that the death of the company can be described as more comfortable.
You and we know that in times of crisis, change, etc., productivity suffers. So if we were to keep companies in a constant state of crisis, wouldn’t we be giving away productivity and profitability?
Superficially, perhaps, if at all. But let’s be aware of one thing: In a crisis, you travel light. So in times of the Corona crisis, we learned that we could run companies without all the meeting theater. 3 hours in a remote meeting is inconvenient, so meetings became much shorter. During the crisis, other routines, processes and rules that had become dear to the company were recognized as useless trinkets, and some of them were abandoned. very quickly and tomboyishly thrown overboard. And now the question for all of us: Didn’t that increase productivity? Quintessence: Crisis is useful to increase productivity, it does not necessarily have to be reduced.
In the spirit of honest discussion, however, it must also be acknowledged that crisis can disrupt productivity. The well-worn and rehearsed paths are shaken, in part. destroyed and constantly you have to find a new way. This is tedious and costs time and thus productivity. But, and this “but” is important to me: If the company is massively disrupted, even insolvent, due to a crisis, if productivity is even 0, then I simply have to realize that I am very quickly trading the high productivity of the supposed “non-crisis” for a value-destroying crisis. To put it more clearly: As a manager, I feel it is my duty to forego a little productivity and profitability today in order to safeguard tomorrow. Those who let themselves be seduced by Smetana’s “The Vltava flows broadly” today, not infrequently wake up in the morning to a cacophonous crescendo that costs them their house, yard and corporate existence.
Let’s get practical. How can managers take action, what do they need to do to make their company/department more crisis-proof?
I have a simple pattern here: everything that is not nailed down in terms of processes, routines, rules of the game, etc. has to go. In doing so, I look at all these processes, routines, rules of the game from two different angles: a) do these processes, routines, rules of the game reflect the legal framework? If so – then they must stay, keyword governance and b) do they benefit the customer AND my organization? Ergo: Everything that reflects the law and everything that is useful to the customer and me may remain. We abolish everything else or reformulate it so that it is useful again.
As a leader, one of my most important jobs is to disrupt the system. The most important question is “Why do we do this or that at all and why do we do it the way we do? Whether we look at Plato’s meeutics or Schumpeter’s creative destruction, it all boils down to the same thing: If you want change, you have to constantly question the old. This is the “midwifery art à la Plato” that we must apply every day. The result: companies that do not carry any ballast around with them and are therefore equipped for the event of a crisis because they are agile and gymnastic.
The last point must not be missing: All that I do, as a person and a manager, must not destroy trust. Trust makes people go the extra mile, trust is perceived as pleasant, trust is a kind of internal corporate currency and accelerator or enabler. And therefore trust as a “social kit” must never be destroyed.
Mr. Antonic, thank you very much for the interview!