Interim area

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What is Interim Management?

The acceleration of change and the management of transition, uncertainty or crisis by a suitably overqualified, proven executive, commissioned at senior level on an assignment basis.

What makes a good interim executive?

  • Knowing yourself and knowing what you do well;
  • Engaging people and leading them through change;
  • Ability to reassure people around you during uncertain times;
  • Willingness to share experience and knowledge;
  • Lots of drive and energy to deliver positive change.

Our market-leading research – in partnership with Surrey Business School – presented at the British Academy of Management – looks at the competencies of effective interim executives and also presents the optimal structure for an interim assignment. Read the full paper in our Research section

So you want to be an interim executive?

Why register with

People are crucial to the success of organisations, so we make a point of really understanding you, your background and how you have led, influenced and implemented positive change and operational improvement in organisations. You’ll be interviewed, referenced, assessed, and bench-marked by an experienced team.

Meeting you and getting to know you underpins the success of each assignment. We’ll introduce you to our clients with confidence because we know you are suitably over-qualified and proven for the challenge.


How can Holdsway help your interim career?

We are one of the UK’s highest rated interim firms and lead the way in promoting the benefits of interim management. Here’s how we’ll help your interim career:

  • Communicating regularly, keeping up to date, ensuring you are in the frame for relevant assignments.
  • Promoting the work of interim executives like you through professional case studies.
  • Supporting organisations like IPSE and the Institute of Interim Management (IIM) who lobby for the interim management industry.
  • Partnering with business schools to produce world-leading research to enable wider understanding of interim management.
  • Our international partnerships, which enable us to represent you further afield.

Interim FAQs

The management of transition, change, uncertainty or crisis by a suitably overqualified, proven executive, commissioned at senior level on an assignment basis.

Interims executives are used to being deployed rapidly to help organisations manage all types of planned and unplanned change situations.

Most interim executives would not accept a permanent offer of employment. They would lose objectivity critical to the success of an assignment if they were looking to take on the role on a permanent basis.

In fact, fewer than 5% of assignments lead to permanent roles. In the rare instances where an executive is taken on permanently, it’s at a more senior level. They are always overqualified for the assignments they are hired for.

‘Try before you buy recruitment’, where available executives take on a role for a trial period before being offered the role permanently is not interim management.  It is permanent recruitment.

In ‘Effective Interim Leadership and Management’ (Woods et al., 2019), the concept of an interim assignment cycle was first introduced.

An essential characteristic of interim assignments is their temporary nature involving a clearly defined brief.  The process from entry to exit is discrete, and not open-ended. This paper identifies four clear stages of the interim assignment cycle: preparation, entry, delivery and exit.

Successful interim executives know how to manage a correctly structured assignment which ensures a lasting legacy of business improvement.

Read the full paper in the research section.

According to the interim assignment cycle (Woods et al., 2019), the preparation stage is when interim executives seek to understand the assignment and its associated demands.  This involves defining the terms of reference and scope of the assignment, meeting key stakeholders, and learning about the organisation and its culture. A schedule of work should be produced and agreed between the end-user company and the interim executive.

The entry stage of the interim assignment cycle (Woods et al., 2019), represents the first days of the assignment as the interim executive commences the key tasks and, albeit temporarily, joins the business. This stage comprises encounters with key stakeholders, during which it will be important for the interim to establish their credibility. It’s often critical that interims review the assignment brief after 10-14 days to see if it needs modifying.

The delivery stage of the interim assignment cycle (Woods et al., 2019), involves the undertaking and completion of the main objectives of the assignment. It entails the sustained effort of driving through the objectives of the assignment including managing any conflict, politics and resistance.

As the interim approaches the completion stage of the assignment, they engage in pre-exit activities, which includes ‘legacy building’, frequently alluded to in the description of interim work.

Yes. A frequent feature of the delivery stage of interim assignments is the emergence of new issues, which might extend the reach of the interim into wider challenges across the client’s business. In such situations, mini-cycles might be established requiring new preparation, entry, delivery, and exit, to deal with discrete issues that emerge. Make sure the client is aware of the breadth of your experience during the interview. This could be critical to know when the assignment opens out beyond the original brief.

According to Woods et al., 2019, the exit stage of the assignment cycle comprises the transferring of knowledge, competence and understanding to stakeholders and permanent employees. The prospect of exit from the organisation differentiates the interim assignment from permanent leadership roles and provides a key driver for the interim’s actions. For example, they may be able to take a robust and challenging approach to change without long-term political concern for future relationships. An effective interim makes certain that their departure is well-managed and timed to ensure durability and sustainability of their work. This stage assures the interim’s legacy and that the impact of the assignment is made long-standing.

Change Management
This covers a wide range of business change situations, whether planned or not. Where change is happening there’s likely to be an interim executive available to help. Used to ambiguous situations, interims can handle unexpected change situations, whether within an organisation or an external market challenge. Interims are also frequently hired to help manage planned change programmes of all kinds.

Turnaround, Restructure and Crisis Management
Interim executives are often brought in to implement change when an organisation is facing crisis, restructure and turnaround. As objective outsiders with no career promotion expectations, interims focus entirely on what’s right for the organisation.

Leadership Transition
When leaders and senior management move on, whether suddenly or with a planned exit, interim executives can help manage the transition. This gives organisations time to scope out the type of permanent executive they need next.

Business Transition
When organisations outgrow their current team, are rapidly going through the growth gears, or are changing strategic tack, interim executives are an ideal resource to help manage this business transition. They can step into a leadership role and keep a business moving forward or smooth the transition to new management.

Yes, most interim executives are ready to work anywhere required and are prepared to live and work away from home, including in other countries. The UK exports more interim executives than any other country.

Yes. Woods et al. (2019) in their ground-breaking research ‘Effective Interim Leadership and Management’ suggest some core ‘observable workplace behaviours’ which are likely to lead to more effective performance by interim executives.

Understanding these competencies will enable interims to identify what assignments they are best suited to and their areas for development.

In their industry-leading paper ‘Effective Interim Leadership and Management’, Woods et al., 2019, established the following as the core competencies of successful interim executives:

  • Planning
  • Fast Decision Making
  • Team Building
  • Communication
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Emotional Intelligence/ Competence
  • Courage
  • Patience
  • Sensitivity
  • Customer Focus
  • Business Focus
  • Persistence

In their industry-leading paper Effective Interim Leadership and Management, Woods et al., 2019, established the following as the core competencies of successful interim executives:

  • Conscientiousness
  • Openness to Experience
  • Extraversion

No.  Availability on its own is not a criteria for defining an interim.

Being available is certainly important if an interim wants to secure an assignment.  But interims must also be proactive, decisive, results-oriented achievers who combine strategic experience with a ‘hands-on’, operational approach.  They are able to adapt rapidly to different cultures, sectors and organisations.  They are people-oriented, able to motivate, assess and handle a new team quickly.  They are resilient, energetic and work well independently.  In fact, this type of person is rarely available, because they are in such demand.

The most successful interim executives are specialist-generalists, able to manage most types of transition and change. Not every available executive is suited to this.

Rarely. If an interim executive is looking for a permanent role, they can lose objectivity critical to the success of an assignment. A correctly selected, over-qualified interim executive would typically refuse a permanent version of the assignment, if ever offered.

Fewer than 5% of assignments lead to permanent roles. In the rare instances where an executive has been taken on permanently, it has been at a level of responsibility that is greater than the initial assignment.

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