Filling the gaps
Temporary managers are giving companies greater flexibility

Charles Dollimore had a problem. The company he runs, MHD International Aviation Parts Inc., needed to meet International Standards Organization requirements to qualify for a big distribution contract it has just won from aerospace components manufacturer Honeywell Inc.

"We wanted to get someone on board who could help us implement the systems and handle the paperwork required to get ISO 9001 certification, Dollimore said. "But we are a small company, and could not afford to create another full-time management position."

So Dollimore turned to Denis Le Breton, an associate with the Montreal office of The Osborne Group, a network of senior executives that help businesses fill gaps in their management structures either for short-term or temporary assignments.

Le Breton, who like all Osborne associates has more than 20 years experience, much of it in manufacturing and supply chain management, worked at MHD Aviation for about a year.

During that time, Le Breton came in once or twice a week. He spent his time training MHS Aviation's 25 employees, supervising the implementation of new operational systems and completing the company's quality procedure manuals.

According to Dollimore, Le Breton's role in implementing the new system was crucial. ISO requirements extend far beyond product quality to encompass almost all of a company's functions from its sales and marketing to its paperwork.

"We already had substantial quality control system in place. But ISO certification meant big changes in many procedures, Dollimore said. "Denis was a big help because he did the work, unlike many consultants who just come in and draft recommendations."

In today's fast moving economy, temporary or part time assignments like those completed by Osborne Group personnel are increasingly common. Today's businesses come and go with increasing frequency. Consequently their lifespans are much shorter than those of a generation ago and jobs turnaround much faster.

Companies like Napster and Netscape often incubate, grow and then vanish, within a few short years. And within those companies, departments and jobs spring up and disappear even faster.

That puts managers who need to fill a temporary or part-time need in a tough position. They can try to distribute the extra work to existing employees. But this often risks a big backlash.

Or they can hire a new person and hope that they find more work when the initial assignment is complete. The problem with this approach is that there are moral and possibly legal implications involved in hiring an employee away from a permanent job to fill a position that is unstable by nature.

"I could never do that," Dollimore said. "I would much rather be straightforward and find someone to complete a specific task. Then when they are finished we either find another assignment or we both move on"

The new ISO 9001 certification will be a big boost for MHD Aviation. To date most of its revenues are for replacement parts for military aircraft used by the Canadian and U.S. governments such as Lockhead Martin's Hercules C-130 transport and the P-3 Orion search plane. But neither government is as insistent on ISO certification as are the European states, so the new quality control system could pay off in other contacts as well.

"The big manufacturers don't want to carry any inventory on the shelf," Dollimore said. "And that's also opening a lot of doors for us."

According to Jacques Caussignac, managing principal of The Osborne Group's Montreal office, temporary assignments can be win-win arrangements for both the manager and the client, and it seems that both parties are buying into the concept. In just five years the executive network has grown from about 15 associates in its Toronto office, to about 75 throughout the country.

"Even though many of our associates have already accumulated considerable savings or pension benefits, they want to stay active," Caussignac said. "I grew up believing in Freedom 55, but I would be bored if I retired"

Osborne Group associates are targeting almost all businesses, but according to Caussignac they can ad the most value in startup companies, temporary projects, or transition situations.

Dollimore was so impressed with his experience using a temporary manager, that he has just hired another Osborne Group associate to complete a human resources plan for MHD Aviation.

"There is a real demand for experienced interim senior staff in the marketplace," Dollimore said. "I think they have really found their niche.

Photo caption: Charles Dollimore, president of MHD International Aviation Parts, is shown here inspecting parts with Denis Le Breton, the Osborne Group manager who helped the company implement ISO 9001 quality control procedures.

Diekmeyer can be reached at peter@peterdiekmeyer.com

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