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THE INTERIM EXECUTIVE PHENOMENA

Updated: Mar 22

by Colin Mason,

CMO and Atlantic Practice Partner, Marketing.



Bringing in heavyweight executives to manage during a period of transition or crisis is a staffing strategy that started in Europe in the 80’s and has now become increasingly popular in Canada and the US. Though the business model is still evolving, interim management is gaining credibility as more employers become aware of the option, and as more high-caliber executives make themselves available to the market.


There are many types of interim executive roles; some are matched to a specific project or assignment, perhaps a turnaround or a sale; some are provisional jobs that lead to a full-time position; others simply fill a hole, such as when a position has suddenly become vacant. Unlike consultants, interims work from within an organization, stepping into a job that needs doing, diagnosing and implementing important internal changes and even interviewing, choosing and training their permanent replacement.


Interim executives tend to be mature, experienced problem solvers with a track record of success in senior management role. The best interims have more ‘spit and vinegar’ than the average. They are agile and adaptable, with a management ‘tool kit’ acquired from working with a number of firms over several decades. They have successfully navigated different business landscapes and addressed their share of challenges and complexities through both boom and bust cycles. They have grown professionally over that same time and have proven to be accomplished practitioners with a great deal of know-how to offer.


Often interim execs are people who have decided for various reasons they no longer want a full-time corporate role, but rather enjoy the challenge, variety and focus that a short-term assignment gives them. They enter companies in the most demanding of business situations to provide immediate support and guidance in the absence of a CEO, director or senior manager, either to maintain ‘business as usual’ or to implement change management initiatives.


One survey conducted in the UK reported that from a range of assignments given to interim execs the breakdown of reasons was as follows:


· To hold the fort (16%)

· Crisis management (13%)

· Closure/sell-off (11%)

· Sudden departure (11%)

· Accelerate momentum (9%)

· Prompt turnaround (9%)

· Post-acquisition management (8%)

· Various other (23%)


The marketplace for interim management in Canada is expected to grow by as much as 25% yearly as the availability of suitably experienced CxOs increases from management shake-outs, which continue across many industries.


C-Level user firms have expressed a high level of satisfaction with interim execs used and indicate their intent to use an interim staffing strategy again in future. We are interested in the reader’s experience with this form of executive staffing and invite any comments or suggestions you would like to add.

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