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Are You Making These 10 Mistakes When Hiring an Interim Manager in Eastern Europe or in the Balkan Region?

Welcome! Navigating the complex business environments of Eastern Europe and the Balkan region can be a daunting task. Countries in this region, such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia, each have unique cultural nuances, historical contexts, and legal frameworks. These differences can significantly impact business operations and management styles.

 

Interim managers play a crucial role in managing these complexities, whether during crises, post-merger integrations, relocation of operations (consolidation of manufacturing footprint), or growth strategies. The landscape of interim management varies across these countries, reflecting their different stages of economic development, business maturity, and industry structures. This article aims to highlight common mistakes and provide guidance for C-Level decision-makers, CEOs, Private Equity Funds, and Advisory Board Members to ensure that their interim missions in Eastern Europe or the Balkan region deliver successful results, without surprises.

1. Underestimating Cultural Differences

Eastern Europe and the Balkan region boast a rich tapestry of cultures and histories. Each country has its own business etiquette, communication styles, and management practices.

 

For instance, the management style in Country A might be more hierarchical compared to the collaborative approach often seen in Country B. Misunderstanding these nuances can lead to significant project setbacks. Still, many people consider this region as “One Slavic Country speaking a Slavic language.”

Example of Cultural Misunderstanding

A Western European company once hired an interim manager in Serbia without considering local business customs. The manager's direct communication style clashed with the local team's preference for indirect and respectful dialogue, leading to friction and delays.

Strategies for Cultural Compatibility

  • Select Cross-Culturally Aware Interim Managers: Ensure that interim managers receive training on local business practices and cultural norms or have worked and lived in the respective country.

  • Hire Locally Experienced Managers: Choose managers who have a proven track record in the specific region.

  • Encourage Open Communication: Encourage open dialogue about cultural expectations and differences.

2. Ignoring Relevant Industry Experience

Hiring an interim manager without relevant industry experience can be a costly mistake. Industry-specific knowledge is crucial for understanding market dynamics, regulatory requirements, and operational day-to-day challenges.

Success Story

In Romania, an Italian manufacturing company hired an automotive interim manager with extensive experience in the local automotive industry to lead their manufacturing operations via a transition from low-margin consumer goods to unique solutions in the automotive sector. This expertise enabled the manager to swiftly implement process improvements and lean management principles, leading to a 35% increase in productivity within six months.

Tips for Assessing Industry Experience

  • Check Past Projects: Review the candidate's previous projects and experience to ensure they align with your industry specifics.

  • Ask for References: Speak with past employers or clients to verify the manager's industry expertise, or ask your Interim Management Provider to provide you with the result of the already performed reference checks. A decent interim management provider will have checked the references of their interim manager before starting cooperation with him.

  • Evaluate Technical Skills: Ensure the candidate has the necessary technical knowledge relevant to your industry.

3. Limited Focus on Project Management and Change Management Skills with a Proven Track Record from Transition Management

Project management and change management are critical skills for interim assignments, especially during periods of crisis or transition. An interim manager with a proven track record in crisis management and turnaround can lead your company through complex changes efficiently.

Example of Success

A Polish engineering company, with headquarters in Germany, faced a challenging merger after acquiring a family-owned business in Poland. They hired an interim Human Resources manager with extensive change management and post-merger integration experience, who successfully integrated the two companies, reducing operational disruptions and maintaining employee morale. The harmonization of the compensation and benefit scheme, migration to a new ERP software, and alignment of the corporate culture brought savings amounting to 2 million Euros per annum.

Tips for Assessing Project and Change Management Skills

  • Look for Certifications: Certifications like PMP (Project Management Professional) or PROSCI (Change Management) can indicate a manager's expertise.

  • Review Past Transitions: Assess the candidate's experience with managing transitions similar to your company's needs.

  • Conduct Behavioral Interviews: Ask about specific challenges and how the candidate handled them in previous roles.

4. Hiring Someone as an Employee for a Temporary Time

It's important to understand the difference between hiring an interim manager and a temporary employee. Interim managers are overqualified professionals with specialized skills for short-term, high-impact roles, while temporary employees often seek job stability and may lack the necessary experience for complex projects and the much-required project-driven mindset. Ask yourself: Do you prefer a 100m hurdles challenge or a marathon run? Can you win 100m with the tempo of a marathon runner? The same applies vice versa.

Risks of Hiring a Temporary Employee

Temporary employees might be looking for long-term employment and secure job positions and may not be fully committed to the project's temporary nature. They might also lack the specialized skills that professional interim managers bring to the table.

Benefits of Hiring Specialized Interim Managers

  • Expertise in Crisis Management: Interim managers are skilled at handling crises and turning around struggling businesses.

  • Focus on Results: They are outcome-driven and aim to deliver results quickly.

  • No Long-Term Commitments: Interim managers understand the temporary nature of their roles and focus on achieving goals within the set timeframe.

5. Hiring an Unemployed Manager in Between Jobs Instead of an Independent Interim Manager

Hiring an unemployed manager who is between jobs can be risky. Unlike professional interim managers, these individuals may not be accustomed to the high-impact, short-term nature of interim assignments.

Immediate Delivery of Results

Interim managers are known for their ability to "hit the ground running." They bring immediate value without the lengthy onboarding process that unemployed permanent executives often require.

Example of Specialized Interim Expertise

A French automotive supplier from the plastic industry hired an interim manager for their Czech plant to deescalate the situation with their OEM customer. The manager, with extensive experience in automotive operations, crisis management, and turnarounds, implemented changes that deescalated the situation after the first four weeks and improved manufacturing efficiency by 30% within the next three months.

6. Failing to Conduct Thorough Background Checks

Comprehensive background checks are crucial in the hiring process. Insufficient due diligence can lead to hiring individuals with unverified credentials or a history of underperformance. Don’t believe everything you read on social media. The best recommendation is to hire an interim manager from a reputable interim provider who has working experience with the interim manager from several previous interim mandates.

Key Areas to Investigate

  • Professional History: Verify past employment and interim roles.

  • Delivered Results: Check the outcomes of previous projects.

  • References: Speak with former employers and clients, or let the interim provider perform the background checks.

  • Reputation: Assess (or the interim provider) the candidate's reputation within the industry.

Detailed Checklist for Background Checks

  • Verify Certifications: Ensure all claimed certifications are legitimate.

  • Check Legal Records: Look for any legal issues or past disputes.

  • Conduct Interviews: Speak with multiple references to get a well-rounded view.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of hiring international interim managers for AI Transformation?

Interim managers bring specialized expertise, identify AI opportunities, facilitate change management and bridge diverse cultures. They help implement AI solutions smoothly, ensuring enhanced efficiency, optimized cost structure, and improved market positioning aimed at growth. Their flexible approach allows companies to test new strategies in foreign markets, without long-term commitments, driving successful AI transformation anywhere in the world.

How can interim management help my company overcome the challenges in the automotive sector in the Balkans, or Eastern European countries?

Culturally aware interim managers with international experience from various countries offer strategic guidance, pinpoint opportunities for growth, and integrate AI solutions to boost productivity and competitiveness without prejudice. They lead cross-cultural organizational transformation, manage risks, and assist in managing costs and competition, ensuring your operations in Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Serbia or any other country of the Eastern Europe and Balkans, remains flexible and responsive in the ever-changing automotive industry.

What steps do interim managers take to implement AI solutions in manufacturing?

Interim managers identify gaps,  AI opportunities, create a detailed implementation roadmap, and manage the transformational change. They communicate with stakeholders, provide training, and offer ongoing support to your existing staff. By implementing agile methodologies and monitoring progress, they ensure AI solutions align with company overall goals and drive continuous improvement, what is of utmost importance especially in complex manufacturing landscape of the Eastern European or Balkan.

Why is change management important in the AI transformation of manufacturing processes in the Balkans?

Change management addresses the human and organizational aspects of AI transformation. Interim managers ensure clear communication, provide training, and offer support, minimizing resistance and maximizing benefits. This approach smoothens the transition and enhances efficiency in manufacturing operations. 

Get in Touch for a Confidential Discussion

Bohuslav Lipovsky

Managing Partner

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