Fractional Executive

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Tony Boobier
by Tony Boobier

I was particularly interested in this new expression which I hadn’t heard before. ‘Fractional Executive’.

My experience of ‘fractions’, to be honest, has been pretty well limited. Mathematics of course, but something from a long time ago. Adding 1/2 and 1/3 to make, well, something else.

At university I also studied geology as a module of my engineering course. To build something successfully and permanently required you to know something about the ground that it was being built on. They taught me something about fractional geology, which is about understanding how rock evolves to become hard and load bearing .

When in my world of work, diving deep into the tubes and tunnels of oil refineries, I would often climb inside what were called ‘Cat Crackers’, where the distillation of the oil hydrocarbon would take place. It was a process which took me back to my time in the school chemistry lab, when we studied ‘fractional distillation’. Same process, bigger equipment. It inferred the ability to ‘distil what is important’ amongst the rest of the soup.

Fractional is a bit different to ‘fractious’ – which usually is taken to mean ‘unruly’ or ‘difficult to manage’. I don’t think that really applies to Fractional Execs. If anything, one of their main virtues and benefits is a lack of interest in the politics of the organisation, which is usually the thing which creates such ‘fractiousness’, if there is such a word.

And so to the idea of the Fractional Executive. According to Wikipedia, it’s a sort of partial role, especially focussed on providing support to small and medium sized organisations. They used to be called Interim Executives – but that now seems a slightly tired and ‘hackneyed’ expression. The new ‘mood’ or zeitgeist is for a Fractional CEO, Fractional CMO, Fractional Sales Manager. And usually it’s very sector or functionally focussed.

Fundamentally it means that an individual, can offer themself ‘in fractions’, rather than full time for a block of time. One day a week. Or a month. Or a quarter. Whatever ‘fraction’ suits them and their client.

As a result of the pandemic, many experienced people have decided that a full time role within a corporate organisation is not for them. Yet at the same time, they are not ready to ‘turn off the proverbial light bulb.’  Financially, it’s unlikely that they are dependent on more income, but every little bit helps.

It might sound a little like reinventing the wheel, but isn’t the reality is that the ‘wheel’ itself has changed?


Tony Boobier