The Death of the Interim Management Industry? – Part 1

flag over Cabinet Offices

flag over Cabinet Offices (Photo credit: Erich Kesse)

A professional colleague recently brought to my attention that the UK Government Procurement Service (GPS) had recently announced the suppliers for the First Phase of ConsultancyONE, featuring the usual big name consulting firms.

Does this announcement effectively exclude professional interim managers and suppliers of interim managers from offering their services to the Public Sector?

Two or three years ago, I and a close number of professional colleagues saw the writing on the wall with David Cameron‘s Coalition Government which was hostile to professional interims and favored the big consulting firms that so often have failed to deliver effective value for money to the Public Sector.  A few of us tried to form an embryo political action committee (PAC) and take the case to the Cabinet Office. We visited our members’ of Parliament who wrote to Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister. As a result of our intervention my colleague Tony Colwell and I were invited to speak to the GPS. We reported back to our industry to both individuals and service providers. My conclusion was that the industry was not ready for robust action.

After more than twenty years as a successful  independent professional executive and consultant, I chose to retire and turn my life to other activities overseas. I blogged about my professional insights at that time. I am now writing from Borneo but still have vivid memories of the professional interim management industry twenty years ago, before it lost its way.

For me, the latest announcement from the GPS confirms that David Cameron’s Government favors the big consulting firms and has abandoned the independent professional management industry. Once again, I would stress that I am not referring to contractors. To avoid any possible ambiguity, I refer to the definition provided in my earlier blog entitled “What’s the difference between interim managers and management consultants?”

Personally, I envision a painful death for the interim management industry and fear for many of my former colleagues.

This blog will be widely circulated via my Twitter network, so hopefully it will generate some lively debate.

Do you agree with my conclusions or have a different view? All views are welcome.

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14 responses

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  8. Alf,

    Ever the optimist, I believe that where there is a will there is a way.

    I the past 10 years I have been engaged on at least three assignments where the manager responsible for the recruitment has engaged me through the official contractual partner as a sub-contractor. i.e. I have networked and used my contacts and reputation to source an assignment, BUT the manager responsible has been prevented by a corporate procurement policy from engaging me directly. Therefore he/she is obliged to use the indirect route.

    All this is OK because everyone is happy.

    The downside of course is that in each case a director level manager in a government department has been prevented from appointing an appropriate resource at the most effective rate.

    Did you guess that the indirect route in each case involved a procurement system partner adding their margin onto my fees, once as high as 30%, for doing nothing? When viewed in isolation like this the policy makes no sense. When taken as a whole for the organisation it may do so.

    I hope that your travelling is going well.

    Green with envy for you.


    • Hello Adam,

      Good to hear from you!

      I agree with you that the Public Sector procurement model is not operating in the interests of the tax-payer and benchmarks poorly against best-practice in the Private Sector. Some of the problem emanates from EU rules which in my view favor large organizations that can afford the expensive bidding process and the high risk of failure.

      Plan to be back in Europe soon, so will perhaps refocus my blogging. It seems like yesterday when you gave me some tips about activating hyperlinks – a few blogs since then 🙂


  9. This is an example of what my late father used to call “Cutting and binding”. It is an old saying from Northern Italy which means something like this:

    First a person seeking help is reassured that everything will be done to help him in his hour of need.
    Then, in the middle of the night, when the person is asleep the so called “helper” creeps in and cuts off the arm or a limb of the sleeper and makes a swift exit.

    A few moments later the “helper” reappears with an accomplice who in the form of a doctor ministers to the injured person and arranges for an ambulance.

    The injured person now ends up in hospital and after a suitable interval the “helper” reappears bearing gifts and flowers to the recovering patient who is then eternally grateful to the “helper” who can then be manipulated into doing the bidding of the “helper”.

    The fate of interim managers was determined some years ago by the Government who wanted to rationalize their consultancy provision to a few suppliers.

    Interims never had any place in this equation and were deemed to be a nuisance even though this was never said publicly.

    Some of the bigger interim management agencies were in the know because of their personal connections and started to re-position themselves as mentors, providers of commoditized contracting services, outsourcers and as overseas operations(e.g.:Executives On Line).

    Interims themselves were not told about the strategy but were told that things were picking up, that there was renewed confidence in the marketplace, that ISPs were having “record years” and in survey after survey were and still are being told that the sunlit uplands are still within reach.

    In this role, these particular ISPs are playing the role of the “helper”, offering encouragement whilst at the same time cutting the ground from beneath the feet of interims by adding so many people to their databases (in one case 200,000), that practically anyone who is alive and breathing is now able to call themselves an interim.

    The Government also pretends to be “helpful” by coming out with targets that would give SMEs a shot at Government contracts (25% is the current target).

    In reality, it (the Government) has achieved 8% on average over the past 22 years and in the case of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, less than 2%.

    To add further insult to injury, it (the Government) treats each interim registering a limited company at Companies House and appointing themselves as a director as a “newly created job” and in fact does so with anyone registering a new company irrespective of whether the company has traded or not. This is one of the reasons that unemployment is supposedly falling whilst recorded economic activity is falling at the same time and why experts find it difficult to make sense of the figures.

    Interim management is expanding in America and Australasia and is in its infancy in Asia but here in the UK, it is being put to death by HMRC, the Cabinet Office, mendacious local authorities, intent on appeasing Capita and Serco and finding their recycled colleagues roles and by the NHS which is a closed- shop which rewards incompetence and failure on an industrial scale whilst paying lip service to patients.

    Interims who are not connected or members of secret societies who wish to succeed must think tangentially and more widely and do so fast, otherwise the future for them will be one of life on the bench, financial erosion, madness and eventual death.

  10. Thank you for this, Alf. it really does highlight an important issue. I know we do not agree on all matters and I am not sure you would go along with this but – – – the smaller the scales of buying the less likelihood there is of monumental errors and so one prong of the fork should be to rethink the size and scale of projects wherever possible. The other is to remember that buying is a skill which should be utilised BUT there must be adequate communication between the buyer and those for whom he/she is acting. It is not always so – and is often made worse by constant tinkering with specifications and requirements.

    • Rodney, many thanks for responding to my blog. This time I very much agree with you. As John Gelmini highlighted earlier, the Government chose the large suppliers in order to rationalize their supply base. The Government Procurement Department and the Cabinet Office have have for years failed to focus on maximizing the value added for the the tax payer

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