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( Top Thoughts on Top Executives. )

Many organisations face a dilemma in business strategy. On the one hand there is a requirement to be very flexible and embrace change, but on the other – to create a corporate structure, maintain consistency and build up experience.

This is where the professional ‘Interim Executives,’ are able to make their mark; companies entrust them with full authority to change the state of things. Various aspects affect most organisations:- mergers, acquisitions, divestments and downsizings, together with rationalisation and restructurings. It is no wonder that there is a limited life span of the average Chief Executive, with a requirement for shorter timescales, increased shareholder pressure and the continual impact of new technology.

An annual survey conducted by ‘Mori’ has charted changing attitudes to and indeed the use of ‘management interims,’ at or near board level in the U.K.

Many ‘ captains of industry,’ utilise interims to ‘hold-the-fort’ to cover a shortfall or the sudden departure of a senior manager/executive, through illness, death or disagreement. However, increasingly, these executive management interims are requested to oversee their companies for an uncertain future and for overseeing closures and sell-offs. These specialist ‘interims’ fulfil roles as managing directors, financial directors and global procurement directors, together with special project and logistic directors.

Captains of industry now appreciate the value of ‘interim executives’ over management consultants with regards to implementing change. They feel that they have a good experience with ‘interims’. It is now considered by industry heads that ‘interim management executives’ are more suitable for implementing change or transition and indeed are more cost-effective than management consultants.

Captains of industry source ‘interims’ through specialist providers, via head-hunting and through the ‘Big Five’ professional services.

It is thought that the most likely people to make a decision on having an ‘interim’ would be the chief executive of an organisation, followed by managing directors, chairmen and then finance directors. Some, however perceive difficulties of incorporating ‘interims’ into corporate culture; doubts about motivation, delays in bringing them ‘up-to-speed’ and lack of consistency over time. Those, of course, with experience of utilising ‘executive interims’ are obviously more likely to use them again in the future.

A company will only truly understand the implications once it has taken that brave step of integrating it’s first ‘interim’ resource. Unfortunately the application of ‘interim executive management’ still tends to be thought of as a ‘stop-gap’ measure and the opportunities for the strategic use of and the added value to be gained from a well-selected, highly experienced resource are being overlooked. However, as confirmed by the majority of ‘users’ companies will consider ‘interims’ as an option again, on the basis of a more thorough understanding of the resource.

It seems that generally speaking the trend is a wider application of resources through a specialist provider, who will facilitate a client’s thinking and ensure a higher level of success in a placement. However, whilst the awareness of ‘interim executive management’ has increased in the U.K., the understanding of the importance and opportunities of working with a top quality specialist – one that knows the pool of professional interims in the U.K and can be highly selective from the best available – is less developed. Captains of industry seem to source interim resources through their networks, rather than through ‘specialist providers.’

Dissatisfaction can occur when company heads utilise their own networks for sourcing interims, resulting in poor selection of the right candidate, thinking of the cost-effectiveness of cutting out the middlemen. This reflects a lack of understanding of the true value and application in today’s market. It transpires, however, that statistically, there is a strength of agreement that ‘interim executives,’ are more suitable and cost-effective for change implementation than management consultants.

To summarise the situation:- the awareness of ‘interim executive management’ amongst ‘captains of industry’ is growing. The importance of utilising specialists, who know the interim pool in the U.K, who source the best available, as opposed to a gap-filler, is underrated. It is important that they are guided by the ‘experts’ in the industry, that when they’re introduced to the world of ‘interim management’ that they have a ‘good’ experience, so they don’t miss out on the opportunity for a fast and objective change implementation.

About the Author: J Hadley writes on behalf of Executive Interims - Supply Chain Practice. See:

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