Sharing Expertise

The Old Switcheroo

Products, services, and entire industries will have to be reworked in light of digital transformation. When a company lacks the requisite expertise, interim managers such as Dr. Ulrich Lehmann step in to help. Sometimes they act as project managers, and sometimes they take on executive positions. As the co-founder of the proINject distribution platform, Lehmann makes this working model more transparent and accessible for other interim managers.

Dr. Lehmann, you’re a highly qualified manager who works on an interim basis. Why do you prefer to share your expertise at multiple companies over working in a fixed position?

I don’t just advise companies and make recommendations; as an interim manager I also take over their implementation. It excites me to always be pursuing new projects and finding new solutions. Moreover, as an interim manager, I’m always strictly obligated to stick to the matter at hand. I’m not bound to internal politics when I lead projects to success and pass on my knowledge.

How does your knowledge remain with the company?

Usually, the customer ensures regular review cycles for the interfaces that are used to pass knowledge on to employees. ‘Pairing’ is also a common practice; one of the company’s employees will shadow me to learn my methods.

You support various different companies as an industry specialist; some of them are competitors. When does this become a conflict of interest?

Interim managers pass on specialist expertise and industry experience, and help ensure that these are put to successful use. As a result, companies are definitely at an advantage when they’re supported by an interim manager who has already worked in a different position in the industry. Most customers take into account that interim managers receive insight into the companies they assist. That’s why a non-disclosure agreement is standard; this offers sufficient protection. What’s more, in the interest of their own reputation alone, professional interim managers wouldn’t dream of passing on confidential operational information or a company’s secrets to third party.

Why is a platform for allocating interim managers necessary?

We want to open up the market and make it more transparent. Until now, German companies only had a limited selection of interim managers to choose from, because the small handful of procurers who allocated them only had a very limited pool of experts at their disposal. 80 percent of interim managers are freelance entrepreneurs who have, until now, been in charge of promoting their services. Interim managers and companies can register to our platform. An objective algorithm finds the best-suited manager for tendered projects. This algorithm takes into account the managers’ specialist and soft skills, as well as their personal outlook – in real time, too. That makes it possible to select the candidates who are truly best suited for each job. Our aim is to enable better market access for interim managers and to improve companies’ chances of succeeding.

Is interim management the answer to demographic shifts and a changing working world?

Absolutely. We’re witnessing a rapid demographic transition in Europe. Interim managers offer intelligent solutions, which is why project work is increasing on a broad scale. Changing perceptions of careers based on digitalization are also driving this trend, since projects in this field no longer take something like 20 years to complete; you can quickly develop an e-commerce strategy or optimize a customer journey, to name two examples, within two or three years. That’s why many companies are dedicating an increasing proportion of their time and resources to project work alongside ongoing operational tasks. Increasingly more companies are viewing the way in which their work is distributed in terms of tasks, not positions.

Picture credit: TÜV Rheinland/Hanne Engwald