Where Strategy Meets Execution
Middle Managers Development – Why and How
When it comes to successful implementation of vision and strategy, mid-level managers are a crucial level in the organization, still they are not always considered as critical as they are.
The unique value they bring to the organization:
- Strategy execution – They lead execution teams and practically control progress and decision making in the most important level of execution – the daily and weekly resolution, the plans, the priority, the targets.
- Cost - Their impact on project cost and cost in general is huge since they utilize most of the resources.
- Change Management – Success or failure of change management initiatives is in many aspects at their hands, as they are the reflection of the change, good or bad, to the ground.
- Customer relationship -They face the business constantly for project related interactions, so at the end they are the “face” of the group to the business.
- Business value – They are the level that translate specific business need to the implementation and have the direct and significant impact on the business value.
Leaner structure and cost reduction necessity in organizations these days increase the importance of middle management even farther. They are asked to take tougher decisions, and deliver more value with fewer resources.
But is enough done to give them the tools and the framework they need to succeed?
In a survey done by Harvard Business Publishing, most organizations pointed out that there is a gap in few crucial capabilities like – Change management, Leadership, Communication, Talent management, manage in vague situations.
Interestingly those are mostly areas that can be handled by training and development programs, but obviously it is not always done, resulting in very low self-efficacy of managers and impacting results directly.
So here are the first 5 actions that should be considered for middle managers development:
- Training & coaching – Though some believe training is not effective and people should mature in their role there are many things that training is effective with. When done right, it shed the light on successful behaviors vs. non-successful ones, it brings insights that otherwise would take years to realize, it gives practical tools to cope with common challenges, and more. Don’t wait for your manager to mature in the role. Plan an on-going training and coaching program to give them the framework to process and learn faster.
- Partnership – To make them partners, middle managers should be part of strategy decisions, at least in some form. This will give them solid understanding of the background and reasoning behind it and strong tools to “sell” it farther in the organization.
- Positioning & Exposure - Increase positioning in organization by public recognition, communication of successes, participation in leadership forums, exposure senior executives and senior business partners, etc. The stronger the positioning will be, the easier it will become to implement strategy.
- Mentoring – Either by the direct manager or by another senior leader, personal mentor can be the way to keep training momentum and strength the understanding and implementation of it by connecting the learning to the day to day reality.
- Leeway – It is important to keep room for experiments (and fail fast…), creativity, flexibility, and different personal leadership styles . Governance should be put in place, but in a way that can still leave place for making a difference.
To sum, the more you invest and create empowered ambassadors of your strategy, the more you are likely to succeed in its implementations. And while doing it, you might make few people much happier than they were before 😊
Good luck !