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February 8, 2016

What is Interim Management?

What is Interim ManagementWhen crisis strikes your business, what can you do? As you try to pick up the pieces, at some point your mind would likely turn to the fantasy of bringing in an accomplished executive with extensive experience in the exact type of crisis your business is experiencing, just long enough to get you through it. That’s no fantasy, though. Such an option exists.

It’s called Interim Management, and it’s one of the latest forms of troubleshooting management techniques to emerge in recent years. While similar to bringing in a management consultant, it has striking advantages that can help your business recover far sooner and far more effectively than a management consultant can.

What is Interim Management?

According to the Interim Management Association, “Interim Management is the rapid provision of senior executives to manage change or transition”. In simpler terms, an interim manager is a highly experienced and specialized executive whom you can employ for a short time to solve a specific business problem. He or she is a master project manager who will not only give you advice, but also implement your solution.

For example, consider a family-run company that has lost its competitive edge in the market the past five years due to internal politics amongst family members. To make things worse, the Managing Director has suddenly resigned and the Chairman realizes that the existing management team is too inexperienced to run the company.

The Chairman has two alternatives. He can source a senior-level executive from another company as a permanent hire. But that drains valuable resources and may destabilize the company further, as family members feel threatened and leave. Worse yet, if the new executive is the wrong choice, removing her will be difficult.

The other alternative is an interim manager with specialization in the needed field and experience in short-term troubleshooting and company efficiency. The choice is obvious. Hiring an interim manager not only puts someone in place faster, but avoids aggravating the internal politics currently strangling the company.

The Chairman can speedily select from a panel of highly qualified executives assembled by the interim management agency, and spend less resources on the legwork. Existing employees will feel less threatened by the interim manager because of his or her limited time with the company.

So why bother hiring at all? Wouldn’t both of those benefits come equally well from sourcing a management consultant? After all, isn’t “interim manager” just a fancy word for a management consultant?

Not at all! Essentially, an interim manager is a management consultant, but a management consultant is not an interim manager.

How are interim managers and management consultants different?

The two share some responsibilities, but interim managers offer benefits beyond what management consultants offer in almost any way we compare them:

Interim Managers Management Consultants
Obtaining the right skillset Hired based on personal abilities and reputation. Chosen by an agency out of whatever resources they have available.
Motivation Benefits from cutting costs and improving company effectiveness quickly, as it enhances his or her reputation for future jobs. Benefits from pushing his or her agency’s additional services or lengthening the service timeline to increase agency revenue.
Active involvement Both advises on the situation, and implements the solution. Advises on a situation, but leaves implementation to you.
Accountability Reports, and is accountable directly to you. Reports to an agency, which wastes time and creates a potential conflict of interest.
Internal Control Works with your own team, under your complete control. Works with agency resources, outside of your control.
Expertise Specialist in the field you need, assuring you of the experience your needs require. Generalist whose experience may or may not fit your need.

In short, an interim manager meets your specialized needs, is more motivated to look out for your best interests, is actively involved from start to finish on achieving solutions, works with your own people and reports directly to you. He or she develops the strategies and then implements them.

Interim managers simply offer a more complete service – and companies have taken notice. A recent survey of 100 senior directors reported that 78 per cent of them feel that interim managers are a better option than management consultants and the interim management industry is growing as a result.

Interim Management Trends

The interim management industry emerged in the European market in the 1970s and 80s, in response to the long terms of notice and high termination payouts typical then. The oil crisis further disrupted industries, creating a need for highly skilled and experienced managers on an immediate basis to rebuild failing companies.

The interim management market encompasses various areas of specialization, each highly competitive, with different rates of demand. The highest demand areas are schools of Human Resources and Finance & Operations, which account for almost 20 per cent of all assignments. Lesser levels of demand include Purchasing, Supply Chain and IT, with IT and Managing Director/CEO roles commanding the highest remuneration.

The public sector employs almost 20 per cent more interim managers than the private sector, but private sector employment increases steadily because of growing awareness of the excellent reputation for quick and effective strategic management that interim managers are earning. That suggests that the excellent growth that the interim management industry enjoys will only accelerate.

What does this mean?

Interim management is a growing force in the management industry, and all indicators steadily point upward. In fact, current trends suggest that interim managers will replace much of the role of current management consultants, as companies become further specialized and require even quicker solutions.

That offers individuals an excellent opportunity to get in “on the ground floor” of this growing industry. The opportunity is there, and now is the time to seize it.

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Marin Ivezic is a career interim manager and the founder of InterimManagement.com

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