While interims most certainly have a role, they should not be employed at the expense of using a specialist external resource.
Consultancy firms work on numerous different projects across different sectors and can draw on the experience and know-how of several consultants. Interims, on the other hand, are less likely to have such a breadth and depth of knowledge as their experience is usually limited to a narrow service or sector.
The fast pace of consultancy also means consultants are more able to stay abreast of the latest management practices and consequently are, in many cases, better equipped to adapt to a variety of problems.
While both the interim manager and the management consultant bring an outsider’s perspective, interim managers will be eventually drawn into the company’s culture and politics.
Consequently they are unable to maintain the independence needed to affect substantial and dramatic changes. In contrast, the consultant’s need to meet specific assignment goals dictates that they must remain objective.
Furthermore, while consultants work to transfer the skills they have to their clients, enabling them to run effectively without them, an interim may, consciously or subconsciously, be tempted to create a dependency to maintain their contract.
Thus, while an interim manager might suffice where it is business as usual, and there is clarity over the skills required and gap to be filled, they should not be employed if real changes need to be made.
In contrast, a consultant will remain objective. In fact, as they meet different business needs, a specialist consultant is often brought in to support an interim manager.
Before making the big choice between an interim manager and a management consultancy, clarify what the business is trying to achieve and make the appropriate investment for long-term returns.
Mike Robinson is a director of Berkshire Consultancy Limited.