Interim Management in Australian businesses

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In 2014, Australia will have one of the lowest take up rates of interim executive management as a percentage of total workforce population in the English-speaking world. There is an untapped opportunity for companies in Australia to differentiate in their industries by leveraging professional Interim Managers in the workforce. In this paper we have examined Australian businesses’ (n=100) perceptions of Interim Managers, experiences with Interim Management, and business areas where Interim Management may thrive in the Australian context in the future.

Interim Management is a form of contracting that fills a company’s needs for senior executive or senior project resources for a flexible period of time. A key distinguishing characteristic of Interim Managers is their experience and ability to add value to management in a line role or on a program. While most contractors are brought into a company to fulfill a specific task, an Interim Manager will generally have the experience to help better define a role or a program on behalf of the company. According to Juliane Birkinshaw (2013), from the London Business School “there are many types of Interim executives - some hired to do a very specific job, perhaps a turnaround or sale, [while] some are provisional appointments, or simply filling a hole… until [a] permanent appointee can be found.”

Over the last 30 years, Interim Management has grown globally and redefined how organizations function in many markets. In 1984 (just 10 years after Interim Management had taken hold in Europe), James Atkinson, a business scholar and Chairman of the Interim Manager Association in the UK, developed a model called ‘the flexible firm’ where he hypothesized that ‘organizations will comprise both a core and a peripheral workforce, using different forms of contractual relationships.’ Now, 40 years later, most businesses use a combination of the ‘core’ workforce of full time employees and executives and the ‘peripheral’ workforce of contractors, consultants, and interim managers.

This peripheral workforce, described by Atkinson, has traditionally begun with contractors, and evolved to include professional advisers as well as in some instances hands-on assistance from interim executives. This development of the peripheral workforce, including the final phase of incorporating more interim managers, has reached maturity in many parts of Europe and North America. Interim Management as an institution is not as developed in Australia however. Vivienne Anthon, the CEO of the Australian Institute of Management says, “The role of Interim Manager in Australia is not as well advanced as other markets” (Fisher, 2013). Hopefully, through educating business professionals about the benefits of Interim Management, Australia will soon close the gap with other developed economies.

In the following sections of this paper we examine how Australian businesses view the use of Interim Managers, experiences they have had with interim managers, and consider business areas where interim management may thrive in the Australian future.

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By Alisha Swinton & Andrew Thoseby from 1st Executive, a CareersMultiList Partner
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