Interim Management: The temporary provision of management resources and skills. Interim management can be seen as the short‐term assignment of a proven heavyweight interim executive to manage a period of transition, crisis or change within an organization. In this situation, a permanent executive may be unnecessary or impossible to find on short notice.
A Short History
The roots of interim management can be traced to the mid 1970s, when employees in The Netherlands were protected by long notice periods for lay‐offs and companies faced large costs when terminating employees. Employing managers on an interim basis presented itself as an ideal solution as it offered a flexible way to acquire additional resources.
In the 1980’s interim management spread throughout Europe, especially in the UK. It has since seen annual growth rates of 20%. In fact many Europeans in their 30’s now embrace interim management as a viable career option.
In the United States the use of interim management first gained headway to fill the seat of a CEO, COO, or CFO who suddenly left a company. Interims were needed to step‐in and provide critical leadership on short notice, while a permanent replacement was recruited—a process that often took months.
Today interim management in the US is expanding, offering an ideal solution to a wide range of corporate situations. These include project management, restructurings, business closings, acquisitions, mergers, and start‐ups. Interim managers go into organizations for a short time, make significant contributions, and then move on.
Why aren’t interim executives more widely used?
The concept of ‘interim management’ is not widely understood. As a result many companies, when they require additional management resources, still seek permanent replacements or utilize consultants.
The wide spread downsizings and reorganizations that occurred during the most recent downturn have changed the business landscape. Companies recognize that, in today’s volatile economy, they must respond rapidly to changing markets and new business opportunities. As a result they are now beginning to view interim management as a viable solution.
So what are interim executives?
Interim executives are seasoned managers who can quickly establish themselves as a strategic resource. They are typically utilized for a three to twelve month period to focus on specific programs or projects, a shortfall in management depth, a need for mentoring, or a rapid change in business performance and culture.
Interim executives understand the importance of company values and culture. Without the concern about internal politics or job security, they can provide sound business advice and take the appropriate actions. An interim executive’s value also comes from taking advantage of vast experience that may be missing internally in an organization. Often a business cannot justify hiring a person since the assignment may be required only on a one‐off or occasional basis.
With experience that allows them to be productive immediately they are responsible and accountable to company managers and are often “sensibly overqualified”, working one to two levels below the positions they once held in their professional careers.
Interims provide effective short‐term solutions for a variety of situations. These include:
• Managing key projects
• Dealing with supply chain issues
• Filling a position while the search for a permanent person is conducted
• Back‐filling positions for managers out on other assignments or special projects
• Coaching and developing senior executives
• Introducing new products
• Integration of acquisitions and mergers into the organization
• Managing a business downsizing or restructuring
• Labor Negotiations
How does a consultant differ from an interim executive?
A consultant reports to his or her employer firm and is generally retained to make recommendations that would then be acted upon by the hiring organization’s management team.
An interim executive reports to a senior manager within the client’s organization and can both recommend and implement the agreed upon strategies.
They are being recognized as a best practice for companies of all sizes and for a wide‐range of situations. Organizations that have experience with interim executives find that they are an effective and lower‐cost way to implement change or transition. Because of these factors these organizations often become multiple users of interims.