Interim CEO


Interim management is one led by an interim chief executive in the corporate world to make or break an organization under do or die situations. Interim CEO who occupies the apex seat in the company temporarily has to manage the affairs of a full time CEO. Interim CEOs are managers who are appointed by organizations for a short span of time say between 3 months to 2 years under various circumstances like filling urgent senior and board level vacancies, change and culture management, crisis management etc.

India Inc was not comfortable with this idea even a few years ago. Given the present scenario and circumstances the organizations are reconciled to the fact if need be (because of no other choice) they will go with the idea of an interim chief.

An interim management intervention might come about in an organization in a variety of circumstances. From business turnarounds and restructuring to filling up urgent senior and board level vacancies. Sometimes even during new product launches, mergers and acquisitions, interim management is a good solution.

An interim CEO could be called for during instances of major organizational changes resulting from factors such as growth or lack of it, acquisitions, incapacitation of senior management due to health or when a company is going through a crisis to instill stakeholders’ confidence in the company. Talent is difficult to quickly obtain at this level for long periods, short term skills may be required whilst a permanent candidate is being sourced.

Getting an interim CEO is not altogether an unknown concept. Mature markets like US and Australia, have always embarked up on hiring an interim CEO or get in an interim management in place. In India the first case of interim CEO happened hiring back in 90s when ‘PS’ was brought in as an interim CEO for e-funds braving a lot of corporate skepticism.

It was felt that most of the interim CEOs are appointed during crisis or when the company is planning a turn around. It was also thought that interim managers can only succeed in slowing the fall and there is no way to measure whether or not the company’s invest in them was fruitful. That is because such CEOs are off to their next assignment before the result of their actions is realized.

India is now getting increasingly comfortable with the interim management model. Many such practices start with MNCs who set up shop in India. The reason for initial apprehension on interim management can be attributed to the economy that was predictable with few large scale projects.

Now there are many investments both in terms of new companies setting shop in India and existing companies undertaking new and large scale products. The difference is in the dearth of right talent available at the right time. For example a telecom company may be expanding its net work in north east and may need a project head for a given period say until implementation. The interim manager is an ideal choice in such cases.

Despite the short tenure of such assignments hiring of interim CEO has several benefits. The organization can use the specific skills and expertise of the interim manager for a particular project even if the person is not a fitment in the organizational context and end the relationship on the mutually agreed time frame when the project is slated to have ended. The interim manager can be paid a hefty sum without having to change the compensation structure.