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Friday, May 08, 2009

Execution and The Middle Manager

According to vice dean of Wharton's Executive Education, Thomas Colligan:

"Many companies are seeing significant turnover in middle management ranks, and with significant turnover, they don't have the ability to execute strategy. Top management can spend all their time creating strategy, but without someone there to implement it, where are you at the end of the day?"

From the Knowledge@Emory article article: "Caught in the Middle: Why Developing and Retaining Middle Managers Can Be So Challenging," here are the key findings:

  • Middle managers are essential in organizations, in part because they link senior management and the rest of the company. They are "the glue across upper and lower levels as well as horizontally with other departments."
  • According to a 2007 Accenture survey of middle managers around the world, 20% reported dissatisfaction with their current organization and that same percentage reported that they were looking for another job.
  • If middle managers are so valuable, why would they report dissatisfaction and leave their companies? A primary reason is lack of advancement opportunity.
  • While most organizations don't readily admit to neglecting middle managers, it can happen because senior managers tend to be so consumed with strategy, particularly in today's rapidly changing markets.

Given the high cost of turnover and the importance of middle managers in executing strategy and change, how do you "do the right things" to help those people move up?

  • Individual plans that are connected to corporate goals, and access to educational opportunities can play a big role in increasing retention rates.
  • Another solution gaining popularity today is coaching: "You don't think you need a coach? Tiger Woods has three."They are mostly used for top managers, but you are starting to see them used for middle managers as well.
  • Participation can also be key in reducing turnover. "Really involving middle managers and allowing them to participate in a change decision, design and implementation will lead them to have more buy-in and ownership so when they have more accountability."
  • Communication is a key element for finding ways to engage midlevel managers in understanding a company's new strategic initiatives -- "helping people at the middle understand in more tangible terms what they need to do. This may include more concrete objectives, examples and messages so that people who interface with customers or run processes understand where the company is and what it needs to do differently."

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