The Interim role at board level

The Interim role at board level
The Interim role at board level

Business change and transformation – following the recession – moved to centre stage and it’s remained there! Many businesses, particularly those who have lost talented staff at all levels, are now faced with the opportunity for growth, but with a host of new challenges. These challenges include new competitors, technology and changing markets and businesses are beginning to realise that they can’t “transform” gradually, but need to make a step change and that’s where the ‘Professional Interim Executive’ earns their money and reputation.

The vision

It starts with a CEO or a Chairman that has the vision –sometimes this individual is also an interim recruited by a parent company or arriving via private equity –but more frequently, somebody who recognises the challenge and whilst valuing the talents of their existing team recognises that they are too embedded in how the organisation has operated, to be able to take a fresh view without some help. Often the first challenge for an interim at board level is to convince senior colleagues that they are not there to ease them out. (Although sometimes that is necessary!) But to help them take a fresh view of their business, the market, the customers, the operating processes and both develop and implement new strategies that will make change happen immediately.


What has changed “post-recession” is the speed of change. Whilst businesses have always been changing, there has been an acceptance that “change doesn’t happen overnight” and it can’t happen if the whole organisation isn’t on board. To use another analogy, “a long journey starts with a small step”. In 2014, that small step needed to be a leap, followed by a number of big steps, otherwise the change would falter and those first few steps will come to a halt.

In 2019, it is much of the same. Change is very important for businesses and bringing in an interim can help to make change happen quickly and effectively. It is even more fundamental now with all the uncertainty for businesses around Brexit.

The interim role

Businesses bring in interims at different levels in the organisation, sometimes to lead particular projects, sometimes to fill vacancies during a recruitment process and sometimes because a function/departmental head has seen the need to “transform” their particular function. All valid reasons for recruiting an interim, but real change has to come from the top and that requires the main ‘change agent’ to be operating at the ‘Senior Leadership Team’ level. It doesn’t have to be the CEO, however, clearly the CEO has to be receptive and supportive.

It is an exciting time to be an interim, but it’s vital for the future and the reputation of the profession, that we recognise that whilst you need to be committed to any business you work with, as an interim you are not “part of the business”, but there to take a fresh perspective. Once you begin to feel part of the business, it’s time to end the contract!

Paul Duncan is the founder of Duncan Paul Ltd, an experienced HR/Change Director and Business Expert. Paul provides consultancy providing strategic advice on the management of Change Management, Business Transformation, Business Strategy and Planning, Organisational Design and Development, and Employee Relations (Union Negotiation at all levels).

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.