The role of middle-managers

When helping clients to manage large transition programs, I frequently get reminded of the importance of the middle-managers who are involved in the change process. Middle-managers are challenged on two fronts: they need to emotionally commit to change efforts they are asked to champion and they have to attend to their team members’ emotions. When they don’t feel personally committed, organizational inertia is likely to happen. When their personal commitment is high but they neglect the change recipients’ emotions, the result can be chaos.

Quy Huy from INSEAD and David Buchanan from Cranford have done extensive research in this area. In the attached video, David Buchanan shares his findings from working with middle-managers in the British health system.

Some of his recommendations include:

  • Release more time to manage, through simple steps: reduce senior management interference, provide reflection time (‘office days’), offer better financial information, have fewer and shorter meetings.
  • Some managers enjoy the pace, excitement, and challenge of their ‘extreme’ jobs. However, multi-tasking across complex roles can lead to fatigue, burnout, and mistakes, which may have adverse consequences on the quality of the work performed.
  • Provide support through administrative assistance, better IT, stable priorities, streamlined decision processes.
  • Capitalize on managers’ motivation and commitment by promoting a positive image of management contributions, and empower managers to solve problems and innovate on their own initiative. Many feel stifled by slow decision processes and poor information systems.

In summary, an organization should ask itself: do we provide our wider management group with an enabling environment, and if not what do we need to do to improve that?

About the Author

Stefan Pap

Stefan founded Stefan Pap & Partners in 2008 after a successful career as project manager at two well-known global consulting firms. He is a passionate and dedicated consultant with a unique combination of strategy, business technology, and people management experiences.

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