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Risk is not just a four-letter word

Risk is not just a four-letter word
Promoted by Risk is not just a four-letter word

James Cumming

James Cumming


Everything involves risk to some extent.

And this has probably never been truer given the recent political and economic upheavals we’ve experienced these past few years. Businesses are getting used to the idea that they can’t just manage risk – but that they need to be anticipating uncertainty.

Uncertainty doesn’t mean ‘should we invest in a start-up?’ or ‘should I let people go?’ - it means being affected by things you can’t measure.

In politics, the last two years have not produced certainty or predictability. Economics has been uncertain since at least 2008 - and arguably has been exacerbated by Brexit. And of course, there’s technology. Although perhaps overstated in the near term, data and machine learning are certainly changing our lives - probably more than we realise they will in the future.

Big, intimidating trends affect us all; knowingly or unconsciously, both as individuals and within businesses and they can prompt less rational decisions. But if the politicians and economists can’t predict the effects of uncertainty on the world, what chance do us business leaders have?

Dealing with risk is an inherent feature of hiring interims. Or at least it should be.

It can play a major part in both how the right interims are attracted to your projects and how their suitability is assessed. Interims are, almost by definition, agile resources. But their real effectiveness can only be brought to bear if the hiring company gets it right.

The agility issue
Agility is our ability to adapt to rapid change.

Agility is key to delivering strategy and running operations under uncertain conditions. Conditions where interest rates rise; trade deals are struck (or fail to be struck); governments fall, embargos end or your business is disrupted by technology invented by a 17-year-old. 

The company that can keep sight of its strategy, enact change, create and protect value, in the face of external pressures are those most likely to thrive.

Agility manifests itself in every aspect of a business.

When hiring, agility means doing everything possible to make the right skills available, at the right time, creating and supporting value, whilst keeping a tight rein on cost. 

Interims play a critical role in making this happen. On the face of it, hiring interims could be a quick-fix, but that would be missing the point. They should provide significant value to your wider business.

But only if you let them.

Culture, conduct & behaviour

One of the facets of a successful interim manager is their ability to assess the culture of your organisation - and adapting their personal style to suit. But the onus shouldn’t be exclusively on them. 

You’re hiring them to deliver critical business functions, change programmes or to undertake something you can’t or don’t have time for.

What elements of your culture might be at odds with their understanding? What might slow them down, when they’re trying to get up to speed? How might you remove barriers to their success? Do you have a solid induction programme for them when they join?

Knowledge, know-how & intellectual property

Interim professionals tend to be at the sharper end of the tool-box. They bring knowledge, not just as consultants, but to get the job done as effectively as possible.

Do you build in time to manage them effectively and to listen to them? Not just for fire-fighting purposes but to absorb their experiences, their ‘lessons identified’ from you and your organisation as a fresh pair of expert eyes? Do you ever ask their opinion on other areas of your business?

Strategy & change

Remember that strategy is only effective with great execution.

By clearly defining the desired outcomes and benefits, you will inevitably save time in the long run and will ensure that you get the delivery that you want onyour programme.

Interims can bring an external perspective and are a key source of intelligence and insights, to not only help you define the benefits suitable to the organisation but to help shape your programme from the outset.

Do you always prioritise effective decision-making, meaningful communication and clarity of requirements at the start of your programme? Or is it often an afterthought when things go wrong?

Take more from your interims

They have a lot to give. And the more challenging and in-depth your assignments, the easier it will be to both attract and retain the right types of interims.

They bring a wealth of knowledge and invariably will have the potential to help you manage your business sustainably in the face of the current global uncertainties.

By taking the time and investing resource to integrate your interims as seamlessly as possible, they will have impact right across your business - far beyond the programme or project they’ve been retained to tackle.

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