In turbulent times, or between two leadership exchanges, or if someone needs to lead a restructuring where an organization is to be restructured or there is a merger to consolidate various organizations or departments, interim executives are often employed. Permanent employment is still dominant in business, but in todays disrupted business environment, interim executives are an indispensable resource for organisations seeking to adapt and change fast. Interim executives have been used successfully across all industries, as well as in public sector. More and less in whole 2017 I was an interim executive in Bærum Municipality. As an interim executive, you bring with you a specific set of skills and experiences and offer significant expertise and agility. Since 2002 I have been in various interim assignments and frequently switched between interim and ordinary management positions.
What is Interim Management?
Interim Management is the rapid provision of senior executives to manage change or transition. In simpler terms, an interim executive 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 a shorter period. Not to be confused, and interim executive is NOT someone working on a temporary or non-permanent contract basis. Nor is Interim management a “try-and-buy” recruitment. Maintaining objectivity is critical to the success of an assignment. Often, you arrive as an interim executive when the situation has become critical and after others may have already tried and failed.
Back to 2002, when the National School Fruit Scheme in Norway for three years had tried to reverse the negative development with the decline of subscribers to school fruit, the Chairman of the Board decided that now it was time to bring in external expertise. I was then brought in to lead the restructuring of the National School Fruit Scheme. I was inside and restructured the whole way the National School Fruit Organization operated and got a subscription growth of 36 percent.
To make an impact from the start, you do not have time to settle in and learn the ropes; one must be independent and hit the ground running. In any case, as an Interim executive you are NOT looking to further your career inside the organization, but to capitalise on your knowledge and capabilities.
When Lindorff Accounting in 2008 decided to close its Business Process Outsourcing, BPO site in Hammerfest, and build two new offshore sites, one in Vilnius, Lithuania and one in Umeå, Sweden. They decided to hire an interim executive to lead this process, I was brought in to lead the process. The reason why they chose to use an interim executive in this process was that they wanted an external executive to manage the downsizing process and build up the new production sites that were not employed by the company. The Lindorff Accounting Group then searched for an interim executive with specialization in the needed field and experience in short-term troubleshooting and company efficiency. The choice was obvious according to the President and CEO that they wanted to hire an interim executive to avoid aggravating internal discussion in the management group. Existing employees feel in general less threatened by the interim executive because of his or her limited time with the company. The turnaround process in this case delivered on time and delivered the project 12% under budgeted cost for the whole project that was on 12 million euros.
So, what is then the difference between a management consult and an interim executive?
An interim executive is a management consultant, but a management consultant is not an interim executive. Both positions share some responsibilities, as an interim executive you offer benefits beyond what management consultants offer in almost any way one compares them:
As an interim executive you meets the clients specialized needs, and are in general more motivated to look out for the companies best interests. You are actively involved from start to finish on achieving solutions, works with the companies own employees. Companies hire interim executives for various reasons; when businesses need urgent change or transformation, when facing mergers and acquisitions etc. As an interim executive you do not only conduct analysis and recommendations; you also implement the strategy that you have chosen with the company’s own employees. Unlike a management consultant who often just does an analysis and gives recommendations and leaves the actual job to the organization itself.
The added value of Interim Management is speed and agility, as an interim executive you can parachute into an organisation and start making an impact straight away. This approach means that urgent projects can be tackled quickly. As an interim executive you are well-versed in stakeholder management and relationship building and used to adapting to different company cultures, allowing you to easily navigate the business to make quick decisions. Furthermore, you have the capability to adapt and flex to meet new challenges as they occur. Moreover, you are often overqualified for the job you will be doing. The skills and knowledge you bring are necessary to address a specific problem or close a knowledge gap. This experience and knowledge enable you to be productive from day one. You are not involved with the internal corporate culture. You communicate your goal unimpeded and are not under pressure to get your assignment extended as a management consultant would want to do. Moreover, you do not just take on an advisory role but are responsible for the running of the company. In general, are you as an interim executive often self-employed, so it helps your brand when the client’s organisation improves.