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On Muddle Management


The Australian Institute of Management has recently released a report on the perception v reality for middle management.

It is not pretty reading – especially if you’re a middle manager!

Now, the survey was conducted by AIM and Monash University and surveyed 1,898 people across the business spectrum and, according to the Press Release from AIM:

The survey participants said middle managers in their organisations are significantly underperforming across the range of key indicators including people management, communication and leadership

stuck-in-a-rut-dog

As AIM states,

Middle managers are the communication ‘gatekeepers’ in an organisation responsible for transmitting messages up and down the workforce ‘ladder’.  It is these managers who have a key role in shaping a company’s workplace culture and who help determine the success of productivity initiatives and major change programs.  Pacesetter organisations are those in which middle managers are in sync with their organisation’s vision, goals and business strategies.

It all comes back to the leadership within an organsiation – how well the goals and mission and vision of the business are communicated not only from those at the top, but through those all the way “down” in an organisation.  From my experience, there are not very many businesses that devote any time or effort to really get this information effectively all the way through their business.  Those that do are exceptionally successful, those that don’t wither and underperform.

Whilst the report encourages middle managers to take more responsibility to refine their own skill sets in the areas of  leadership, communication and staff management, the reverse is actually true – the owners/senior management within organisations need to provide their own leadership and support in this area.  “A fish rots from the head” is an apt analogy here.  Those “at the top” are obliged to provide what is needed for those reporting to them to deliver what is required.

With an effective strategy to engage and develop middle managers, organisations can truly excel.  We have seen loads of examples over the years where businesses have invested in processes and strategies that specifically address the need to communicate vision and mission and goals through and organisation (the Stages of Growth process is ideal for this and, being research based, is incredibly effective) and also to enable people within an organisation to understand and then play to their strengths (the Trimetrix Assessment is perfect for this).  The end result of undertaking these processes is that the organisation is healthier, more focussed and far more effective in what and how it does what it does.

One of the more telling components of the report states:

Our survey results confirm that now is the time to be more strategic when evaluating the contribution and capabilities of middle managers.  Certainly, if organisations are to maximise their performance in a marketplace that is becoming more global and more competitive by the day they need to ensure that middle mamagers are a positive asset, not a hindrance.

Where an organisation understands that middle management is there to provide the support, guidance and direction to the operations level of the business and then ensures that middle management has the right information, communication skills and leadership abilities, they will do exceptionally well.  Unfortunately, we often find that most organisations adopt one (or more of the following excuses – and this is not an exhaustive list):

  • we’re too busy
  • we don’t have the budget
  • our people aren’t up to this
  • we don’t have the time
  • it’s not onoe of our priorities at the moment.

Thinking such as this on the part of senior management will ensure that they won’t allow their organisation to thrive.  There will always be an excuse and there will always be the opportunity to work on the business to make it better.  By putting it off and/or ignoring the potential that exists within an organisation, the argument is that the owners/senior managers are being negligent.

So, if you want to invest and get a very solid return on the improvement that is waiting to happen within your organisation, why not get in touch?  The survey results show that most businesses are pretty crap at management of middle management.  By improving their performance in this area, they will significantly outperform their competitors and find life is a lot less stressful.

Nothing to lose, everything to gain.  It would seem stupid if you didn’t pursue the opportunity for your business.

By way of example, we did a Stages of Growth Xray with one of our customers the other month.  As a direct consequence, their gross margin increased from 34% to 51%.  Would you like to do that?

To read the report, please follow this link.

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