It was introduced in manufacturing industries 20 years ago, but interim management is now raising its profile in the public sector as it becomes a credible option for steering organisations through periods of change.
"The public sector is now quasi- private sector," says Alan Horn, chief executive of Albemarle Interim Management. "And the main reason is the massive drive for change."
This change results from a variety of political pressures, from the need for the health service to prove that it is meeting targets in patient care, through to poorly-performing councils that are obliged to implement a recovery process.
"We are seeing two types of change," says Mark Rawden from Solace, the representative body for senior strategic managers working in local government. Rawden is head of resourcing at its money-making arm, Solace Enterprises, where he has placed many types of staff up to and including chief executives.
"In local authorities there are two types of change that might necessitate recruiting an interim executive," he says, "the structural changes brought about by the Children Act bringing social services and education together, plus cultural changes about the way things are done."
At Albermarle, Horn has seen a 50% increase in public sector placements in the past year. Similarly at Robert Half Management Resources, UK managing director Steve Carter has seen significant growth in the past 24-26 months, citing "public sabre-rattling" as the stimulus.
Use of interims in the public sector is fast catching up with the engineering and manufacturing industries. The latest in a series of regular Snapshot Surveys at Russam GMS Interim Management puts the public sector at 13% of all interim assignments, with manufacturing taking 19%.
The same survey also identifies the top 10 reasons for using an interim, with specialist skills, new strategy, special projects and restructuring topping the list, while more traditional views, such as covering temporary absence, languish at the bottom.
Even during periods of change and upheaval, HR professionals are astute enough to use interim executives to bring a new skills set into the organisation at need.
"HR people now understand that interims are a way of getting more bangs for your buck", says Rawden, "and a great deal of quality for not a great deal of cash."
So what makes someone who is only going to stay for a few months - and claim fees of up to 500 a day