Employing interim managers: The right person for the job

Before deciding on what type of temporary executive to choose, it is crucial to understand how the temporary management market works.

Imagine the market as a triangle divided by height into three bands: at the base, there are the temporary executives, who bring mainly functional or technical skills to an assignment; at the top, are the highly qualified specialist professionals, such as turnaround experts and high-level financiers; while in the middle, there are consultants and interim managers – experienced business people with functional and technical expertise, as well as general management and strategic skills gained working at or near board level.

In their purest forms, consultants and interim managers are not necessarily in competition with each other. Theirs are separate, but related, business disciplines at different ends of the spectrum.

Between two extremes

At one extreme, there are consultants who study, analyse, report and advise on actions that could be taken.

At the other, are the interim managers who work within an organisation as part of the in-house management team to help the business meet its objectives.

Between these two extremes is the grey area: organisations offering implementation consultancy or outsourcing, and interims operating on a consultancy basis at the client’s request.

Deciding which is most appropriate depends upon the needs of the organisation and the benefits that the use of a third party is likely to bring. Sometimes, those needs can be best met by engaging a consultant. On other occasions, it might be more appropriate to use an experienced interim who has delivered results in a similar situation. It should also be remembered that it is often the intervention of a consultant that leads to the decision to take on an interim manager.

Interim managers are experienced and successful senior managers who have become independent consultants or freelancers. And becoming an interim is no longer simply the last resort of the redundant executive, but rather a career choice.

Interims need to have a demonstrable track record of delivering results to a variety of organisations in a number of different situations. It follows, therefore, that they can be used in any industry sector and across any job function. For the client, it is what the interim can deliver now and in the future that counts. And as the quality of those working in this way continues to improve, interims are no longer used purely for gap management, but as a strategic resource to cover essential skills shortages.

The decision to use an interim is not one that should be taken lightly, however, and it should be based on sound business reasoning. The likely benefits should be weighed up against the estimated costs and the risk that results may not be achieved. The use of an interim should also be considered as an investment – after all, the decision to purchase a major capital item would not be taken without a serious investment appraisal, so a similar approach should be taken for the appointment of an interim manager.

According to the Interim Management Association, interims cost between £500 and £1,500 per day, depending on experience. Assignments are generally agreed for an initial period of three months, but are frequently extended to eight or nine months, which equates to 160 working days, or around £100,000 a year.

Defining the problem

The process starts with the agreement that the use of an interim is the best way to meet business objectives. Many interim assignments are arranged directly with the interim managers’ own limited company, but larger organisations, with higher-value assignments, often prefer to use the services of a recognised service provider.

The decision to use an interim is followed by defining the assignment parameters, which are often detailed as a project. However, the selection and engagement of a suitable person is not the end point – the assignment needs to be managed like any other business process.

The final part of the assignment is to manage the legacy to ensure that any change, improvement or transition brought about during the assignment is sustained within the organisation.

In the past decade, the quality of interim managers has greatly improved, making them much more credible as a strategic resource. Employers are now prepared to use interims to cover skills shortages and not just to manage gaps. Interim management is now a viable business service and is set to play an important part of executive resourcing in the coming years.

Ian Daniell is the industry champion for the Interim Management Association

What’s the difference between a consultant and an interim manager?


Interim manager              
Accountable to consultancy Accountable directly to the client
Acts as adviser/facilitator Has line responsibility and is part of the management team
Makes recommendations Designs and implements change
Only intervenes as needed Full- or part-time intervention


For more on interim management go to:

Interim market overview: Demand is anything but temporary

Try before you buy – how four HR directors use interim managers

It’s a lifestyle not a job – what it is like to work as an interim manager

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