Want to make the right permanent hire? Hire an interim first

When an executive leaves unexpectedly or a major personnel changes occur in your organization, the void is felt at all levels of the organization. Rather than rushing to return to a feeling of equilibrium, I believe one of the best ways to make the right permanent hire and position your organization for long-term success and stability is to first hire an interim manager.

Interim managers do more than just “hold down the fort” until a permanent hire can be made. Interims bring their expertise, perspectives, adaptability, leadership and motivation skills, and entrepreneurial mindset to the challenges your organization is facing. An interim executive comes in with an analytical mind and unbiased view to help your organization achieve sustainable results in a short amount of time, allowing you the time to iron out persistent organizational issues and assess your organization’s needs so you are better positioned to make hiring decisions with purpose and wisdom.

Gain fresh perspectives and re-focus on your mission.

Getting the objective outsider view that an interim can provide is important for the long-term health of your organization, especially if your organization tends to promote from within. Often, when a management position becomes vacant unexpectedly, organizations will rush to promote a promising lower-level manager, even if he or she still hasn’t fully developed the skills to be successful in the vacant position. Hiring an interim manager into this position for a short time before you hire internally allows your organization to work out process issues, for example, while bringing the potential internal hire up to speed. The interim can bridge that gap, setting up the internal hire and your organization for success.

Times of transition provide the opportunity to consider who you are as an organization and whether processes currently in place promote the organization’s mission and values. A lack of crisis doesn’t mean everything is running smoothly. When growth slows, mission creep sinks in, goals go unreached, or when urgent issues distract your organization’s leadership from mission-centered issues, an experienced interim’s perspective could be just the breath of fresh air your organization needs to refocus on its unique identity.

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Elements of a Successful Turnaround Strategy

Hospitals/Health systems across the country are faced with increasing financial pressure including slow economic recovery, decreases in reimbursement, increases in uninsured or underinsured leading to increased bad debt write offs, and increased operating expenses.

Not surprisingly the result is more and more organizations that were financially sound find themselves either in financial distress or at least moving financially in the “wrong direction.” Turning around a hospital where finances are in decline requires extremely strong leadership from the top, ideally a CEO with prior experience leading a turnaround. This initiative needs to be supported by the hospital senior leadership team and board, and reinforced by engaged employees, physicians, and even members of the communities served by the organization.

Hospital turnarounds are not just about cutting costs. You can’t cut your way to long-term growth and profitability. You need to build programs that will financially support the hospital and meet the community’s needs through physician recruitment and capital investment. Cutting costs are a short term sometimes necessary endeavor, but long term success will only come from program volume and revenue growth.

It’s now essential in the current evolving environment to negotiate favorable contracts with insurers and other networks who control patient access and also consider the development of Accountable Care Organizations and other population health strategies. Finally developing key affiliations and networks with other hospital and healthcare providers are essential to strengthen your gaps in services and geographic coverage.

While no two turnaround situations are ever the same, just as no two sick patients are ever exactly the same, there are some common elements that all successful turnaround situations will have.

These elements includes the following:

  • A strong visionary CEO with proven experience in leading a successful turnaround.
  • A strong committed board that will support the CEO and put what is good for the long term survival of the hospital ahead of long-standing personal friendships and relationships and agendas and the short term pain and changes that may have to occur.
  • A good comprehensive and realistic turnaround action plan based on an in-depth assessment of the hospitals financial, operational, cost structure, market position and also physician and community perception and support. The plan should identify specific goals and objectives and actionable plans with quantifiable metrics and assignment of ownership.

Implementing the turnaround plan:

  • Implement plan with sense of urgency.
  • Monitor results and modify tactics where necessary.
  • CEO stays engaged / leads from “the front.”
  • Divides resources/removes obstacles/drive changes forward.
  • CEO and leadership team “walks the walk” and “talks the talk.”
  • Communication -- CEO establishes robust communication process so that employees & physicians are kept fully informed of changes occurring and why they need to occur and to gain their support for the long term benefit to the organization.
  • Publicize and celebrate the successes. Nothing breeds success, like success.

Going through a “turnaround” situation is one of the most stressful events for any healthcare organization to go through. With great visionary leadership and a good “plan” the organization will emerge not only more financially sound but with a “high performance” culture ready to move on new challenges.

You can see Davide Carbone's LinkedIn profile here

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Michael French adds international experience to the Wiederhold team

Michael French is an expert in interim work, both nationally and internationally. We have found that most of our clients have an interest in learning more about these particular areas. Michael will be part of our program and will spend time with our clients on both sides of these important opportunity areas. You will find a short bio on Michael French below reflecting on his expertise.

About Michael French

Michael French has more than 35 years of experience as an effective and communicative leader of for-profit and not-for-profit healthcare delivery systems as a CEO, COO and Hospital Administrator. He has achieved results through building trusting relationships with Boards, physicians, senior leadership and staff and actively engaging them in developing and executing strategic and operational plans. He has completed operational, quality and financial improvements in a variety of organizations ranging from a 100 bed acute care hospital to multi-facility integrated systems. For the past five years, Michael has been providing both domestic and international Hospital Interim CEO, turnaround and consulting services, specifically in California, the Middle East and Turkey. In addition to Interim CEO engagements, Michael has led operational turnarounds, performance improvement and due diligent projects.

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