As an interim manager, I am told I get interesting assignments. I do and it’s good to share some of the insights. In this issue: developing production in China, and business development in Brazil. I hope you find them interesting, I would be delighted to tell you more;

Gone Global

Never quite the same again. Once you have undertaken an interim assignment in China, there is a different perspective.

I have recently completed an interim assignment based in China for a large Chinese electrical engineering company, to get first of type production established for a wind turbine, but not in the way others do – we are building the product and the production process for intermediate volume. Complicated but successful; very hands on, keeping everything on track whilst driving through the organisational and production engineering issues.

Much of what is written about China has truth but is incomplete. Like seeing pictures of wild cats and then going on Safari, you have to be there. Unlike Safari you need to be there a while and be totally immersed – there is a different way of thinking. And whilst it’s critical to be sympathetic to the culture, you must never go native. This is a substantial part of what the client is paying for – uncomfortable as it may be on occasion (for all).

It helps to have done it before. Previous assignments include recovering a material handling project based in Hong Kong and running a business in Germany (the design authority for the Chinese turbine was a smart German company). But it’s also the ability to recognise what you don’t know and or can’t understand, then find a solution that makes the difference – and you are on your own. Interims generally are. Standing on the assembly floor when things are moving very fast but not quite as they should, I could not turn around and ask ……. nobody would know what I was talking about, sometimes literally if my interpreter had gone for tea ………. and Europe was 7 hours behind. But the problem is now, right now. Never quite the same again.

Interims Don’t Do Gloss

30 days to get the picture. Most of my interim assignments, running a project or a company are “start and do”. Occasionally it’s different. “We need to understand the industrial landscape in Brazil for the marine defence and offshore sectors”, my client said – for whom I had previously undertaken more conventional interim assignments. “And ah…. there will be a board review in 60 days, you will know what to do”.

The internet is the place to collect information but it has its limits – there is no substitute. You have to be there to understand. But it’s a good place to book flights, find hotels, be clear how a place works before I get there – somebody is paying for my time, use it wisely. Interims are not consultants but they are inveterate problem solvers, bringing order out of chaos, taking things from A to B. 30 days to get the picture in country, 30 days to create a reality.

Brazil is changing, and like so many countries there is a huge disconnection between its recent past and today. It affects everything, the industrial structure, the profile of expertise, the way people think, the governance. Meetings took place, with engineers, with bankers, with entrepreneurs, captains and admirals of the navy, oil and gas developers, potential partners, customers and competitors. Always checking, is this really how it is, and does this represent the future? Then in the night and early morning brain dumping and consolidating, making sense, finding the gaps. Important to get it right, interims do not do gloss.

The report. Yes – the pages of visit notes and the report, but not the value. The 60 days became 45 days then less. The real value: a highly focussed 2 hours sitting in a room the client. “This is how it is and why it is, this is what’s in it for us”. No Power Point, just a set of notes, some blank sheets of A4 and a pencil. The report came later.

On my last morning in Rio I took half a day as a tourist. Christ the Redeemer is as people say. You have to be there to understand.


Andrew is a highly experienced interim manager facing the engineering and technical industries having undertaken a wide range of board level interim assignments in many countries over the last 15+ years, and with a total of 35+ years in industry. About two thirds of assignments come from recommendation.

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