I like to make myself redundant

By Carien de Vries

I was standing with a bunch of flowers in my hand. The six months were over, final handshakes exchanged, and I was ready to go home. I could be proud because the targets had been achieved. The client was satisfied. Everyone was happy. Right?

Interim Management highberg. Organization change

I was standing with a bunch of flowers in my hand. The six months were over, final handshakes exchanged, and I was ready to go home. I could be proud because the targets had been achieved. The client was satisfied. Everyone was happy. Right?

No, not quite. Because I wasn't completely happy. I had done my best to leave the organization self-sufficient, but would they really succeed? How did I know that my efforts were sustainable? The project was a success, but what had the organization actually learned from it?

Sustainable situation

This was a few years ago. I brought up this example when I brought in my current client. I told him that from that moment on, I had decided to do things differently. And how this idea took root and grew at Highberg. How we, as interim professionals, actually strive to be redundant at the end of the project.

It always sounds very logical. You're hired because an organization has a shortage somewhere. And when you have a shortage, you bring in an external addition to your organization. But with an interim professional, this is generally a temporary solution. A quantitative problem is then solved, while there is often a qualitative problem underlying it that is not addressed. This would mean that you have to honestly look at your weaknesses.

For example, someone is hired to increase reliability in the organization and to check whether agreements are being kept and deadlines are being met. A true "blue" person, as we call it in management literature. Or an organization looks for a project manager who can work more results-oriented than the project managers in that organization. Because this project cannot fail. But then what? When these people are gone, will your employees and colleagues still adhere to agreements, and will projects in the future be handled by your own people?

Goal secured

Now I'm holding a bunch of flowers again. My current assignment is completed. And yes, this time I am really satisfied. Because this client understood what I meant. We made agreements about the sustainability of the change in the organization. "I was a bit surprised at first when Carien told me in our introductory meeting that her goal was to make herself redundant," my client said during my farewell speech to the audience. "And I had to swallow hard because she was asking us to examine our weaknesses. But the pain was worth it because I can now say with my hand on my heart, 'Carien, we will succeed even without you.' I smiled. I couldn't wish for a better farewell.

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