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Set expectations clearly before an interim assignment

9th July 2020

Before you start an assignment
Agree the brief: The preparation stage is critical to the success of an interim assignment. If you don’t know what’s really going on in an organisation you can’t prepare for it. Forget standard job descriptions; ask what five or six things need to be delivered or dealt with in the next six months. Agree and sign off a schedule of work with the client summarising what you are there to do, what success looks like, deadlines, who is sponsoring you and importantly the fees. Make sure you have agreed a fair and reasonable daily rate for your services plus any business-related expenses.

How do I work out my daily rate?
Once you get into your stride as an interim you will have a better idea on your market value. If you are new to the interim market, focus on getting the right level of assignment – good rates and reputation will follow.

As a rough guide, if a permanently employed executive earned £150,000 in cash last year (salary and bonus) divide by 180-200 days of utilisation, which gives you £750-£850 per day. You then look at the brief, see how interested you are: Is it a good fit? Where is it based? Will it involve ‘hardship’ or travel? And how keen is the client on hiring you specifically? Then negotiate a price.


How do I manage an interim assignment?
Each assignment brief should be clear. Clients and interims should be able to answer the question in words of one syllable – “Why is the interim being hired?”  You should know how to manage an assignment, know what stage you are at and be able to plan your exit.

Once you’ve agreed the schedule of work and the fees, make sure you know everything else you haven’t yet been told. Don’t be afraid to ask just that: “What don’t I know?” Make sure you know where the objections might be too. For example, your sponsor might tell you most of the leadership are against the initiative you are managing. Get to know as much as you can before you start so you have a chance of deploying the right competencies to be successful. Then get on with it.


Managing an effective interim assignment
Woods et al. (2019) described in their ground-breaking paper the optimal way to structure and manage an interim assignment.  With four stages, preparation, entry, delivery and exit, the model keeps interims and clients on track, enabling performance management by results and deadlines. Without a structure all parties can understand, assignment ‘drift’ can follow.


Think about your next assignment – get references and case studies
On completing an assignment, get those references. While it’s clear in people’s minds what you’ve just been through to improve their business and their working lives, get them to write you reference. A brief email is fine – just as long as it’s authentic.

A case study sets you apart.  Holdsway publishes some too.  This is an excellent way to differentiate yourself – not many interims produce them. It shows confidence in your ability to deliver.

Above all, interims are providing a business service. Do all you can to make it a professional business service.

Useful links and resources
Institute of Interim Management (IIM) – the UK’s professional body for independent professionals operating as interims

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) – the voice of the UK’s self-employed population

HMRC: Understanding off-payroll working:

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