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Interim Management: It’s not just the Oscars who have a problem with names.

Poor Faye Dunaway. She will now be better remembered as the person who read out the wrong Best Picture title than she will for previously being named Best Actress and having two further Oscar nominations. Most unfair really, given that she wasn’t the one responsible for the mistake. Who was it hiding in the shadows who gave her the wrong name? I suspect we shall never know.

Of more personal interest to me would be to find out who it was that came up with the name ‘interim management’. The trail goes cold somewhere in the Netherlands in the 70’s and I am sure the culprit is never likely to ‘fess up’ to this most misleading of descriptions.

Given that the business world is divided into two communities, those who understand the value of interim management and those who don’t, and that the latter group is the larger, a more accurate name would have been of considerable benefit. Interim managers and service providers have countless conversations every day trying to explain what they do because ’interim management’ isn’t actually it.

‘Interim management’, to the uninitiated, conjures up the idea of the steady hand on the tiller or the wise head managing an interregnum. Safe. Conservative. Passive. Boat rockers not required.

This is a world away from the reality of what a good interim manager is and, indeed, their typical engagement. Rarely, in my experience, is the requirement for an interim manager driven by a mere absence at the top table. Most organizations can survive a board member leaving and another joining, and the expense of an interim manager isn’t warranted.

Interim management isn’t about having another name on the board minutes.

Interim management is about change, outcomes and leaving a business in a demonstrably better state when you leave it than when you found it. It is for this reason above all that so many new clients are coming around to the idea of using interim managers rather than consultancies to fix problems, once they move beyond the idea they are hiring a person to cover a job.

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