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How Interim Management Evolved

During the nineties, between downsizing and the dot.com era, corporate men and women were becoming endangered species. This meant that organisations were left with little or indeed no spare management capacity. This created space for a breed of management consultants. Later developments however, gave way to a new, better adapted species –‘the Interim Executive.’ These ‘Interims’ being freelance executives were brought into a company at short notice to do a specific job. Once the task was completed, they left without a great deal of fuss or a large pay-off.

These new ‘Interim Management Executives’ go into a company for a short time to fix problems
for a daily rate, without all the extras that accompany so many pay packages. They prefer to make the necessary changes and move on, rather than manage a stable situation or compete for position in the hierarchy of a large corporation.

When a management role becomes vacant at short notice, ‘Management Executive Interims’ can step in to provide leadership at short notice, while a permanent replacement is found – a process that can and does take many months. ‘Interims’ then seem to offer an ideal solution to a variety of corporate situations, including turnarounds, start-ups, close-downs, acquisitions and mergers and one-off projects.


Interim Management Executives can offer a neat solution to a ‘tricky’ problem and one that can address a whole range of situations. So why aren’t they more widely used? The fact is that many companies don’t consider ‘Interim Management’ as an alternative. Instead they do as they have always done. When they require additional management resources, they either return to head-hunters to source a permanent addition to the payroll or they bring in consultants to fill the gap. Both approaches are expensive and often inappropriate. ‘Interim Executives’ offer a cost effective alternative to this particular dilemma. However those organisations with direct experience of ‘Interim Management’ believe that ‘Interims’ are a more suitable and cost-effective way to implement change or transition, than ‘management’ consultants. Interestingly the three most favourable roles are:- Finance Director, Special Projects Director and Managing Director.

There seems to be lack of understanding about the ‘Interim’ concept generally. The majority
of companies have still not tried this approach. Everything is changing in the business landscape. The pace of change is a continuous upheaval. The impact of globalisation, new technologies and other disruptive forces means that companies can no longer remain static. Discontinuity seems to be normal now. It is now recognised that companies must speedily respond to market opportunities. From those businesses surveyed, a high percentage thought it more difficult to attract talented people, than it was a few years ago and another high percentage thought it very difficult to retain them. Because of these trends it seems as though ‘Interim Management’ wouldn’t fit the bill. Given this information on corporate life, the next thing to ascertain is:- ‘What has prevented the use of ‘Interims’ in senior roles? The answer seems to lie, in part at least, with the failure of those in industry to make the business case for ‘Interims’ in senior positions. Quite simply Interim Providers haven’t managed to spread the message. However, through research there has been a definite growth in the’Interim’ market. More importantly for the long term prospects of the industry, it was found that there was a high level of satisfaction among companies that had used Interims and a great many saying that they would utilise ‘Interim Managers’ again. Originally ‘Interims’ were utilised as stop-gap managers, but increasingly they are establishing themselves as a strategic resource. In the past ‘Interim’ providers have been seen as ‘ad-ons’ to executive search and selection companies or consulting firms. Now providers at the top end of the market are now detaching themselves from traditional recruitment and consulting services to establish specialist consultancies in ‘Interim Executive’ provision. Research has confirmed that companies that have tried ‘Interim Management’ have found it to be highly effective. This and other developments make it a good proposition for ‘Interim Management’ They suggest that the industry is now better orientated to address specific market segments. However the greatest difficulties lie in the boardrooms. Many companies still feel that high level executives must be permanent appointments.

Precisely when the first of the ‘Interim Executive’ species emerged is unclear. Most agree that this momentous event occurred somewhere in the Netherlands in the mid to late ‘seventies.’ ‘Interim Managers’ apparently offered a flexible way to bring in additional resource.

The shortage of talent in industry is already having an impact. Professional ‘Interims’ would seem to offer a cost-effective alternative – where an injection of management expertise is required for a transition period, the choice has tended to be between employing a senior manager on a permanent contract, or using consultants. The challenge, therefore for ‘The Interim’ Industry as it continues to mature is to present the business case in a more compelling way. At present in an environment where senior executives increasingly arrive and depart with unseemly speed, many companies already utilise ‘de facto’ interims, without really receiving any of the benefits.


About the Author: J Hadley writes on behalf of Executive Interims- Supply Chain Practice. See http://www.executive-interims.co.uk




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