The stages of an interim management assignment

The following assignment lifecycle shows how interim managers enter, engage with and exit their assignments. The early stages have much in common with consultancy, as the later stages have with project management, but the combination of insightful analysis and results-driven implementation is the differentiating hallmark of the interim management approach.

  1. Entry. The prospective client and interim make initial contact and explore the requirement sufficiently for the client to be able to decide whether or not to engage the interim manager to address the presenting situation. This is likely to involve a ‘preliminary’ assessment of what the client thinks they want and the boundaries of the interim manager’s contribution. Typically this discussion unfolds over one or more initial meetings and results in the interim manager’s provisional engagement.
  2. Diagnosis. The interim manager researches the current situation in order to understand it, how it came about and the requirements and perspectives of various stakeholder groups. At this stage a more detailed understanding of the situation is formed as well as possible ways to address it. Issues or problems different from those initially highlighted by the client may come to light at this stage. Diagnosis may run concurrently with the handling of immediate issues and usually takes several days to complete.
  3. Proposal. Using their expertise and experience, the interim manager presents a more detailed proposal based on what was found during ‘diagnosis’ to act as the interim assignment objectives and plan. The proposed solution may change significantly from that which was initially envisaged at ’entry’ and it is possible that it may challenge the sponsor’s understanding of the situation. However, expecting to be judged by results, the interim manager proposes the solution most likely to be effective.
  4. Implementation. The interim manager takes responsibility for managing the intervention, project, or solution, tracking progress and conducting periodic feedback reviews with the sponsor. Focused on the task in hand, they get as close to the situation as is necessary, whilst remaining an independent practitioner. They may be managing teams, projects, dealing with crises or transformations or filling a management or executive gap with added value expertise, professionalism and effectiveness.
  5. Exit. As the assignment comes to an end, the interim manager will ensure that objectives have been met and evaluated, and that the client is satisfied. This stage may involve the finalisation of knowledge and skills transfer, sourcing ‘business as usual’ successors, and sharing lessons learnt in the process. Because the interim manager is focused on the success of the assignment and not simply the length of their own tenure, this stage will be carried out professionally. Finishing the engagement may mark the end of the interim manager/client relationship, but sometimes interim managers continue to give occasional ad hoc consultancy depending on the needs of the situation.

Interim managers arrive quickly, engage effectively for as long as required, then leave.