By Debra Evans, Principal and Practice Leader, Kepner-Tregoe

Top management teams often assume that since middle managers’ responsibilities are operational, they don’t need strategic details. Yet middle management is a strategic force within an organization.

While functioning in the operational realm, managers cannot carry out operational responsibilities effectively if they lack strategic context. Operational decisions — hiring, training, purchasing, improving productivity, assigning research priorities, designing marketing programs, selecting sites for new facilities — need strategic guidance.

For example, a company manufactures pumps and sells them exclusively to utilities. A strategy to pursue customers for its existing products in other industries is very different from a strategy to add product lines to meet more of the current utility customer needs. Operationally, the research and marketing decisions to support the strategy would be entirely different. The active support of middle managers is critical to the effective implementation of the strategy.

While executives formulate what the organization will become, managers implement it, determining how the organization will get there.

Strategy promoting actions for executives

  • Communicate the strategy (including its rationale) to middle managers.
  • Help middle managers link their unit missions and job responsibilities to the strategy.
  • Describe to middle managers the sorts of “strategic information” you need to direct and fine-tune the strategy.

Strategy promoting actions for middle managers:

  • Step up and proactively force strategy clarification
  • Carve out a meaningful strategic role within your operational one.
  • Provide ongoing information and recommendations that can help top management evaluate and adjust both the implementation and the strategy itself.

Spelling out the strategy to employees is not a matter of being nice or making everyone feel like part of a team. An organization’s success in carrying out its strategy to a great extent depends that middle managers understanding the strategy as well as how to implement it.

See Debra's complete article as published on SmartBusiness

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