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Consultants vs. Interim Executives – Looking at Their Differences & Strengths

Without question, both Interim Executives and Management Consultants are sought for their expertise and strategic input.

Although they share certain similarities, their roles, motivations, and impacts on the organization distinctly differ. But in reality, how aware are most businesses of the differences? The answer is certainly not enough.

In Europe, the concept of Interim Management is already well-established, but North America is witnessing an awakening to the power of these operational leaders. As organizations on this side of the Atlantic discover the unique value that Interim Executives bring, the landscape of business advisory services is evolving. 

It's time to break down the common, false belief that consulting and Interim Management are one and the same, as consultants from McKinsey or BCG for example are pretty different from what the Interim Executives from  xNorth can do. And in the following sections, we will find out exactly how they differ:

Understanding the Business Dynamics

Let’s start with ground one – how do Consultants and Interim Executives managers differ when it comes to analyzing the dynamics of businesses they enter?

Management Consultants specialize in analyzing problems, providing strategic plans, and offering recommendations for improvement. Their strength lies in offering an independent assessment of business practices, thereby contributing fresh, unbiased perspectives. 

Yet, integral to the duty of Interim Executives duty is learning the ins and outs of the firm so that they may operate as seamlessly as possible inside its framework. Usually, Consultants adopt a birds-eye view of what a business intends to do, but Interim Executives align closely with the business's objectives, working within the organization’s structure and collaborating with existing teams.

Integration & Implementation

Expert guidance and strategic direction are Management Consultants' strengths, and they engage with client organizations to understand their requirements, identify challenges, and provide complete solutions - but from an external perspective. They mostly advise, leaving strategy execution to the customer.

Unlike Consultants, Interim Executives are hired to become an integral part of an organization for a pre-established amount of time while a change is being implemented. Using their knowledge and expertise in the field, they do more than just provide guidance; they get their hands dirty with actual implementation.

Interim Executives immerse themselves in the business's day-to-day operations since they are not just planners and advisors but also active implementers who apply their expertise directly to achieve tangible results.

Collaboration & Responsibility

Interim Executives often fill management positions and collaborate closely with firm executives and established teams. Most of the time, they are responsible for recognizing issues and dysfunctions, setting goals and methods for achieving those goals, and actively participating in implementing and managing any necessary corrective measures.

Conversely, there are no strings attached for Consultants as they typically operate from a more advisory standpoint. Yes, they devise recommendations, strategies, and insights, but their level of involvement within an organization is often limited.

Driving Results & Executive Action

Even though Management Consultants provide valuable recommendations, the responsibility for implementing those recommendations typically rests with the client organization. 

Result-oriented and practical, Interim Executives are focusing on achieving tangible outcomes. They are equipped to make immediate decisions, handle crises, lead change, and drive operational efficiency. Their involvement is not just advisory, as most Consultants are, but includes taking charge of execution, and ensuring that strategic plans are effectively translated into action.

Looking Forward

Whereas businesses grow more specialized and urgently seek answers, the function of standard Management Consultants is expected to be primarily replaced by Interim Executives. 

Step by step, to meet this pressing and growing demand, xNorth brings the best selection of Interim Executives over the Atlantic, along with North American businesses, to tap into an extensive pool of expertise and strengths.