Whether to use consultants versus interim managers can be a bit of a loaded topic, and I'll choose not to address every angle in one post. Here I will just scratch the surface and paint some color by relating some anecdotal experiences. Depending on interest level, I may follow-up this post with additional discussion at a broader level.
To set the context, here's a couple of working definitions that I'll offer up:
- Consulting - use of a third-party (potentially a team) to help a company solve a particular business problem (for example, evaluate business opportunity for offering mobility applications to consumers, provide an independent assessment of a failing call center)
- Interim Management - use of one or more experienced individuals to take or play the role of a manager or executive within the company (for a limited period of time or trial period).
Now my deeper attention to the term "interim management" first started when I worked back in the 90s at the management consulting firm, PRTM. As context for those not familiar with PRTM, I characterized PRTM (back then at least) as firm that balanced strategy and operations engagements. As such, the firm got involved with both early strategic planning and later-phase, tactical design of business capabilities. At risk of oversimplifying, PRTM consultants were not just pure strategy guys, but they were often people with actual implementation and management experience. There used to be a firm motto that floated around to the effect of, "Results, Not Reports". This motto was essentially a shot at strategy firm practices of delivering stacks of analyses and reports that never had an impact. One of the partners (who had just rolled off an assignment as interim CEO) described to me his view on interim management something to the effect as follows, "Interim management is something [infrequent] that the firm only does for special clients. Unless approached correctly interim management can create a dependency between the firm consultant and the client that is hard to wean the parties off of. But interim management can offer a variety of benefits, particularly when a company wants to move forward with operational execution immediately."
Since then, here's a few examples I've heard from clients over the years which are indicative of a lean more towards use of interim management over consulting approaches:
- "We don't have the management skill set internally, and we need to fill three management roles in finance, services, and technology pretty immediately while introducing more sophisticated practices that can be transferred to the larger organization as we grow."
- "We are exploring this new geography for our products and services, and we need someone to help us as a general executive (covering all entity and operational requirements) to see if we can get things to pan out."
- "Our marketing VP will be going out on parental leave, and we need someone to fill the role for six- to nine-months."
- "We need someone that can fulfill the corporate development function with total dedication, but we need the option to release this person once we have met the objective of securing a beachhead in the North America enterprise market."