Interim Management: The Misnomer

Over many years in interim management I, like many others, have suffered from an inherent problem: the words people use to describe the profession in which we are involved don’t describe it very well.

I have been to countless meetings with HR Directors and Chief Executives who say that they are very interested in the concept, but they don’t have any “gaps” to fill. Suffice to say that I decided a new vocabulary was required.

I have come to the conclusion that interim management is a misnomer and that it is better defined as transformation, change management and project management (with a small, but important, element of gap filling).

Good “fixers”

Professional interim managers (some have been working as such for over fifteen years), have generally worked at board and senior management level, and come from
every professional discipline. They are good “fixers” and can quickly assess the best way out of a problem. Having put together a plan, they have the technical, interpersonal and leadership skills to form strong teams and drive through to success. What’s more, they have in depth experience, so people believe in them.

Their work is project based – they have to move a company from point A to point B, which will almost invariably involve change. Then they can move on, the company not really needing the “sensibly overqualified” individual who has helped deliver the step change. If there is a requirement to continue managing this area of the business, it can often be resourced with a less skilled individual.

Making a difference

So why don’t interim managers want a “proper job” (another point often made by potential users of interims)? Because they are really good at fixing problems, love variety, generally hate internal politics and pushing paper, and after nine to twelve months in an organisation want to celebrate by saying “I did that, I made a difference”.

Once they have helped a client make the desired change, they move on to the next challenge, whether it be post-merger integration, creating sales pipelines, developing new products, cost cutting, right sizing, due diligence or any of a myriad of other useful change services.

Interim management is much more than just gap filling. It is likely that there will be even greater demand for such skill sets as we emerge from recession, and competitive edge becomes more important. Refocusing is often made easier with a fresh set of eyes.

The realisation that we are in a new “norm” is dawning, and making the changes necessary to improve performance and gain market share can be accelerated, using the flexible resource provided by interim managers.

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