Interim Management: A Solution to the More-Revenue-for-Less-Cost Paradox?

In the grips of this deep recession, the call for casino operators to achieve a seemingly impossible mission has never been so great or so urgent: cut costs while increasing revenue. There are no simple answers to actually doing this, of course—if there were they would have been implemented already. After all, you’ve got a strong management team that knows its business. You’re concerned that any appeal to the board for patience could be taken as a sign of weakness, and who wants to be delivered the message “If you’re not fired with enthusiasm … you soon will be!”

So, where to begin? Well, using a phased approach is often best when faced with a large and complex challenge. The first phase is gathering the facts of the situation, generating ideas, discovering opportunities, and then prioritizing them by their likelihood of success. An important point for the management team to recognize is that the real solutions are likely to emerge from the process of “learning by doing”—and will probably involve combinations of many different changes across all departments.

During this phase, it’s important to help the team accept that some initiatives may not work as planned, and that’s OK. It is important to discover what doesn’t work as well as what does. Such acceptance will help to maintain momentum later, during the implementation phase. This first phase gives you a place to start, and the action of going through the process establishes a mindset for impending change.

With a plan in hand, the next phase is preparing your people for change. This is a process rather than a decision, and people need time to work it through. Pressure is likely to be counterproductive, but the facts of the situation should stand for themselves.

Well, that’s the easy stuff.

Now the third phase is all about hands-on action, trial and error, implementing new systems, trying new products, cross-training for seamless service, implementing the online strategy, adding text-message capability to your marketing program, and whatever else you’ve identified as appropriate. This phase calls for a terrific pace, with several options being implemented and managed simultaneously. It needs to build momentum and support. It needs the flexibility to stop and change tack. It needs high-energy, long hours and watchful eyes. And, yes, it needs fantastic enthusiasm.

“Get real!” I hear you say. Your operation is already running lean and demanding long hours. Management is under energy-sapping stress and people are already putting their health on the line for the operation to just stand still. Understood.

But the reality of the situation is the fixed relation between time, scope/quality and costs (resources), known as the Project Management Triangle. If, for example, the time constraint of a project is tightened, then either cost must be increased (more people, more money or both), the project must shrink, or the quality specification must be lowered. There is no changing one without changing the other. If we follow this logic and recognize that time is of the essence, enough scope for improvement needs to be employed and quality must be maintained, then increasing costs over the duration of the project is the only remaining option.

The key to success in this difficult exercise is not a question of throwing cash at the problem, but rather applying and leveraging highly skilled and experienced management resources.

We propose that the most suitable way forward is to use interim manager(s) to manage the major part of the project. Consider what a professional interim manager offers:

• Experience. Interim managers will be more than qualified for the project that they are taking on and will operate with speed and confidence, avoiding the pitfalls learned along the way.

• Accountability. Rather than taking on a purely advisory role (as a management consultant would), interim managers are responsible and accountable line managers who will implement the project in their own right.

• Fresh Perspective. Not influenced by the legacy of the casino, interim managers will bring fresh perspectives and ideas.

• Objectivity. Interim managers have no hidden agendas or obligations other than to achieve the goals for which they are accountable.

• Effectiveness. Operating at a senior level gives interim managers the authority to effect significant change or transition within the company. Unlike a temp, they’re not just there to hold the fort.

• Energy and Enthusiasm. Interim managers get time to recuperate between assignments and have the energy and enthusiasm to get them through enormous workloads.

• Speed. Interim managers can be in place within a week.

• Cost Effectiveness. Once the intense activity of implementing your solution is accomplished, the interim manager is off the payroll.

Interim managers are highly achievement-driven professionals who find reward in their accomplishments and your success. Although it’s a relatively new profession, interim management has already proven to be a highly cost-effective way for companies to leap ahead of their competitors in many industries around the world. Don’t underestimate your rival’s ability to use interim managers to rapidly gain organizational horsepower and leave you standing at the traffic lights. Act today.

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