Changing a company into profitability through a turn around programme requires a change manager with high competence for complex structures.

By Dipl.-Ing. Nico Pohlmann / Partner We all know this classic – a situation in a company is deadlocked, the company’s own employees and managers cannot find the way back to profitability on their own – an external expert has to be brought in to realign the management team and the employees of the organisation in focus. Once this turn-around expert has been found and has very quickly gained a picture of the situation in the company, the processes, the price management and the qualifications of the relevant key players, he takes up the work of recommending courses of action and reports this to the supervisory body or management board. Once the recommendations have been developed into a project with milestones and associated sub-projects and approved, it is time to get to work. Often it is already discussed here how much time is needed for the implementation and at what stage the handover to a project manager yet to be named would be conceivable. In most cases, no one from the own team is suitable to take over the project, because these employees or managers had not understood it until then and did not stand out through independent, assertive work in complex structures. In most cases, there is also a lack of leadership qualifications. After the first successes of the external manager in the course of the project and the first months of payments of daily rates to the external manager, the supervisory body becomes impatient and expects a quick handover to someone from the team. Once the external manager is found, and usually he or she has to be persuaded from above, the wrong decision is pre-programmed for the rest of the project and the outcome of the turnaround programme.

After changing their processes, companies usually fall back into their old patterns.

Of course, from the management’s point of view, a lot of money was saved and the project responsibility and leadership was transferred back into their own hands. In the end, however, this short-sightedness took its revenge, as in my cases the companies actually slipped into insolvency in the medium term – and this was absolutely not necessary – or did not get their “act together”. They fell back into the “old rut” without continuing to live process thinking and the newly established structures and ways of working. In these cases, the consulting and interim sector is left with a sour aftertaste, since a well-designed reorientation did not work out due to short-sighted cost-saving.

How can this be countered? How can a change project succeed in the long term?

A turn-around situation should only be handed over to new process owners when the new processes have actually been established in a stable manner. They are stable when the newly established KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) deliver good results over a reliable period of time. If it is not possible to find a project manager from within the team, it is better to look for an external manager in a leadership position and hand over to him or her. The costs for this consistency in implementation are initially significantly higher, but so is the success rate in the medium and long term.

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