What is Interim Management?

The concept of interim management is not new. In the early days of capitalism, the concept of a “permanent manager” did not exist. Business owners hired leaders for a particular project or expedition, or do deal with a crisis. In those days, the word interim was not used just as when clocks were first introduced they were not called “analog clocks”. The concept of analog was applied retroactively when the alternative, digital clocks, appeared on the scene. Similarly, the rise of permanent managers required that the old form of employment be described as interim.

While the rise of permanent management may have eclipsed the original concept of interim management, the original concept did not disappear. During times of crisis or discontinuity, business owners continued to rely on reputed leaders to extricate themselves from difficult situations, or to lead special initiatives. Often, these leaders positioned themselves as management consultants, but when called to manage they reverted to their original role as leaders.

As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that while management consultants can also be called in to handle projects, they focus mainly on planning implementation and facilitating processes, not taking decisions.  (See section below on the difference between interims and consultants.)

Interim Management has become a key management technique again, and is now clearly an alternative to the use of permanent managers or management consultants. When you need additional managerial bandwidth to handle special projects, crises or discontinuities, what do you do? You need an accomplished executive with extensive experience in the exact type of situation your business is experiencing, just long enough to seize an opportunity or deal with a challenge. This option was there at the dawn of capitalism, exists today and is starting to gain in popularity as the concept of permanent employment is now in question.

Example of an interim assignment

Here’s a case study from one industry observer:

A family-owned and operated company has lost its way  because to conflict among family members. To make matters worse, the CEO has suddenly resigned and the Board realizes that the existing management team is not ready to take full responsibility for the implementing the company’s strategy.

The Board can poach a senior-level executive from another company as a permanent hire, but this will be expensive and may destabilize the company further, as family members may feel threatened and leave. And if the new chief executive doesn’t perform, the company will be even worse off.

Alternatively, the Board can engage with X-PM, which can second to the company an interim CEO with deep and relevant industry expertise and experience in exactly the kind of situation in which the company currently finds itself.

The choice is clear: hiring an interim CEO not only provides a faster solution, but avoids exacerbating the internal conflict currently hobbling the company.

The Board can speedily select from a panel of highly qualified executives assembled by X-PM, and there is no advance payment or commission that needs to be paid — X-PM charges on a monthly basis like a management consulting firm would. Existing employees will feel less threatened by the interim manager because of his or her limited time with the company.

Click here for some real life case studies of X-PM’s work in India. There’s also a good article on the concept in Harvard Business Review.

What is an interim manager?

Interim Management is the concept of having a senior executive work on a full time but temporary basis. An interim manager is usually required during periods of rapid change (growth, transformation, restructuring), crisis or discontinuity.

How are interim managers and management consultants different?

Is “interim manager” just a fancy word for a management consultant?  No, because management consultants are independent outsiders, while interim managers become insiders. They are part of your organization, and are therefore can not provide unbiased advice. For example, they may not recommend solutions that they themselves cannot implement. A good management consultant, on the other hand, should recommend the best solutions, not just the ones they can implement.

The following chart compares interim managers and management consultants in more detail:

   Interim Managers    Management Consultants
Skill set Managerial experience. Analytical ability.
Motivation Satisfaction from doing a job well and enhancement of reputation. Intellectual stimulation and enhancement of reputation.
Level of involvement Full time, on site and carrying your company’s business card for a specified time. Provides advice or facilitates process of implementation on a part time or flexible basis, for a specified time.
Accountability       Responsible for achieving results. Accountable to professional standards of conduct.
Control Part of your organization. An insider. Independent outsider.
Specialization Usually a veteran of your industry, but can also be a generalist. Usually has multi-industry expertise, but can also be a specialist.

In short, an interim manager focuses more on implementation, while a management consultant focuses more on strategy or facilitating a process.

There is a role for both management consultants and interim managers. When you need a rank outsider to offer you a fresh, independent perspective on strategy, a management consultant would be appropriate. When you know what your strategy is and need to implement it fast, many Boards have come to the realization that interim managers are ideal.

Interim Management Trends

The modern interim management industry began its comeback in the Netherlands in the 1970s, in response to the high severance costs typical in that era. The oil crisis further propelled the industry by creating an urgent need for highly experienced managers to turn around companies.

The interim management includes many areas of specialization, including Human Resources, Finance & Operations, Purchasing, Supply Chain and IT.

To learn more about the latest trends, click here to view the WIL Group International Survey 2019. X-PM India is a founding member of the WIL Group.


Interim Management is the rapid deployment of senior executives to manage change, transition, crisis, discontinuity. In other words, an interim manager is a highly experienced and specialized executive whom you can hire for a specified time to solve a specific business problem. He or she is a master project manager who translate your strategy into an action plan, and then execute it.

Interim management is making a comeback as Boards have recognized the limitations of permanent hiring and management consulting. Current trends indicate that interim managers are replacing some management consultants as companies seek to translate strategy into implementation. Interim managers are also replacing some permanent managers as companies reduce slack in their organization.