How to Leverage UK Economic Growth: Positive Industry Policies and Deployment of Professional Interims? – Best Blogs Series


Catch-22 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regular readers of this blog might be getting a bit tired of me regularly banging on the drum aboutProfessional Interims but please stay with me for the moment!

To remind you, recent posts have included:

This week the Chinese Premier visited the UK, starting at the Chinese owned MG plant in Oxford – the next day he and David Cameron announced a large trade deal but it seems that a few days later, Germany got a much bigger prize. This prompted me to think about constraints on UK exporting. Meanwhile, President Obama announced that the US must invest in manufacturing, especially cars, planes and wind turbines – this caused me to challenge a journalist on Twitter “whether the UK had an industry policy?” On a personal basis, I have continued with my “Catch 22 campaign” to try to get more professional interims into the Public Sector to help with transformation (delivery of reforms) – this has included numerous discussions with interim providers, other professional interims and the Cabinet Office. Meanwhile, I have followed other news about Government U-turns, lost stamina for reform etc. I also called Andrew Turner, a fellow professional interim to alert him that our joint blog “What’s the Difference between an Executive Interim & Management Consultant?” was still getting a large number of hits on a weekly basis. Andrew is a seasoned Interim Chief Executive, specializing in change management, business strategy and performance improvement.

Let me now try to weave a coherent thread here. Andrew spent much of his career overseas, especially in the Americas and we started taking about deploying interims to help businesses grow overseas markets, either with exports, acquisitions or joint ventures. A few days later, our thoughts had moved to scarcity of specialized resources to grow businesses. Andrew articulated the argument in a LinkedIn professional debate as follows:

Technology is driving the workplace towards ever more specialised segments. Whereas 20 years ago a specialism would encompass a fairly wide band of knowledge, today that band is being broken down into ever smaller subsets, creating specialists in each one of them. As a result, there is an accelerating trend towards organisations and people transferring tasks which are not part of their core competence to external skilled experts.

To clarify, this is not the same as outsourcing, where whole chunks of work are delegated to third parties to carry out more efficiently than would be the case if kept in-house. Rather, it is the transferring of peripheral activities to specialists (micro-specialists if you prefer) who can carry them out far more skilfully than we can. For example, who has ever spent time creating a mediocre PowerPoint presentation and wishing it could be done by a skilled show designer?

Perhaps this is what David Cameron had in mind when creating his vision of the “Big Society”? After all, government is just as affected as everyone else by this move towards specialisation; they cannot expect to be all things to all men, so perhaps professional interims can become the micro-specialists that support and give substance to the PM’s vision?

My “Catch 22 campaign” has convinced me that the Government, politicians and other stakeholders did not fully grasp the potential of professional interims – there is still too much dependency on consultants, in my view. I started thinking about how to try to convince the Government to adopt a positive industry policy towards professional interims?

At some stage in the week, the penny dropped and I realized that in comparison to China, France, Germany, USA, Russia etc. the UK Government did not have a positive industry policy. I have recently started reading Peter Mandelson’s book “The Third Man” and I suppose that I was sensitized to industrial policy (Peter Mandelson really has an expert grasp of this subject). Anyway, the hares really started running in my mind. I appreciate that George Osborne as a strong believer in neoliberal, monetarist economicsprobably does not have too much time for Keynesian interventions but surely industrial policy must be on Vince Cable’s radar, as well?

Given the editorial freedom of my own blog, this prompted me to hypothesize that:

In order to grow the UK economy more quickly, the Government needs to:

  1.  Articulate positively policies for all major industries
  2. Identify major resourcing constraints by major industry
  3. Identify support groups, like Professional Interims, that can help the Government identify, risk assess and implement the required changes and delivery programmes (highlighted as constraints under (2) above)
  4. Explore greater and more effective deployment of Professional Interims and Independent Consultants to design and deliver transformational change programmes cost effectively at the local and regional levels (Big Society), dovetailing with major consultancies operating at the national level 

2 responses

  1. Dr Alf tells a convincing story and yes all the other countries he mentions have an industrial policy whereas we have never really had one.

    If there ever was a policy the closest we came to it was during the time of building up the British Empire when we controlled countries and were able to establish “trading relations ” with them that filled our coffers with gold and provided work for the masses in exchange for plutocratic wealth for a few capitalists as they were then called.

    In 1885 at the height of British Imperial power we could stand the king on the viewing rostrum at 9.00am,allow him a liesurely lunch of 2 hours and have the biggest display of naval firepower ever seen in the world pass his critical gaze until 4.00pm that same day.

    The warships and their massive guns allowed us to establish trading relations with anyone we fastened our eyes on on terms which suited us.

    During that time we created the British East India Company and the modern drugs trade which was then focussed on opium and which Lord David Sassoon and the then Lord Rothschild forced on what was then a defenceless China at a cost of 100 million Chinese lives,mostly of desperately poor Coolies.

    A lot of that wealth stayed offshore setting the precedent for what happens today with the bulk of the wealth(90% plus) remaining offshore but in the hands of a very few people.

    Creating real wealth and egalitarianism for the masses was never part of that equation although Robert Owen and a few pioneering spirits tried to inject some sense of Equity and overall fairness into their operations.

    More money was made and kept offshore during the 2 world wars and a tighter grip was achieved on those assets remaining onshore by dint of buying them up during the depression and through all subsequent recessions and the so called “Banking Crisis” that we experienced in 2007 and the later”Libor Crisis”.

    The policy in the UK is the fleecing of the great unwashed whereas the policy of the other countries Dr Alf mentions is to actually have an industrial policy which helps everyone albeit unequally.
    Interim Managers in the current scheme of things are not relevant to the true policy but they would only be relevant IF the Government of the day was even capable of formulating an industrial policy or was allowed to have one.

    The record of 1.4% economic growth since 1946,the continuance of policies designed to create wars and upheaval all over the world while we appear to remain as “cleanskinned” people with purely benign motivations is evidence enough of no industrial policy and of no desire by those really in charge of there ever being one in prospect.

    Can this change?


    But it will not be at the hands of interim managers at least half of whom sit on the bench eking out a pittance,but at the hand of someone with far more power than any human being.
    That Deity will have to put the Druids and pagans who stop roadbuilding and who want to keep us in the Dark Ages,to the sword and it will have to rid us of the mental prison too many of the Great Unwashed are in.

    After that, maybe there will be an industrial policy but interims, like the dinosaurs will pass into the history books, as ancient forlorn figures or they will reinvent themselves as expatriates ,wise greybeards and webinar presenters.

    • John, many thanks for an interesting viewpoint. As usual, you seem to have managed to concatenate a few extra viewpoints.

      We agree that there is a need for an industry policy. Also ‘interim management’ has been devalued. Even in the ‘golden days’, I think that it was never more than a cottage industry. These days it’s all probably subsumed as part of the recruitment sector – once again mainstream consulting have some out not smelling too badly, and fighting to give their partners a few more millions in fees.

      I am fascinated by your last paragraph. I am having a cup of tea and pondering whether I’m a retired dinosaur? Or perhaps this ex pat dinosaur has mutated? Perhaps when the Winter sun hides the grey beard I shall look to webinars in 2015.

      Thanks for all support

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