Middle Managers

As the manufacturing industry of the economy began to decline in the 1970s and
1980s, the service type companies springing up everywhere. The ranks of white-collar
middle managers made strides up the corporate ladders, and filled thousands of
The stock market crash of October 1987 brought industries to a spiraling halt.
Businesses, such as, airlines, financial services, and manufacturing were all
descending. Suddenly all those things that organizations had counted on in the past,
such as, stable market conditions, domestic competition, and the confidence to control
business were no longer viable.
In the late 1980’s news of corporate axing in the middle management ranks
became all to familiar. Companies began to delayer their hierarchies, downsize, and
‘rightsize’ their business. Organizations, once praised for ‘lifetime’ employment
found themselves defending their stature in the marketplace and hacking away at
thousands of jobs, particularly those in middle management.
Middle managers prior to these layoffs had been the ‘watch dogs’ of the
organization. Their focus was internal, they were concerned with making the operation
seamless. They monitored costs, identified variances, and solved operational
problems. They did not focusing on the external environment that affected the
organization. Those actions were left to senior management, who had the answers to
the many challenges and questions faced by the organization. They resolved most
issues and drew their own conclusion on what was plaguing the business.
For those middle managers who were lucky to keep their jobs, operating a lean
operation meant broader responsibilities, larger spans of control, slower career growth,
and few upward mobility opportunities. All of this for far less job security. Senior
managers expected more and different things from them which middle managers were
not equipped to perform.
Today, most observers would agree that the old division of work no
longer applies. Indeed, the overly rational, control model has been abandoned in favor
of learning theory as a basis for describing how strategy is created. Operating
personnel were the first to recognize the need for change. It was a middle manager,
however, who was able to provide the knowledge and perspective to facilitate a
successful solution. Strategies don’t develop full-blown from the minds of top
managers or anyone else. Rather, strategies develop over time through different
decisions and actions made by middle managers.
Today’s middle managers are focusing on strategy, they have moved from
growth and control to innovation and customer responsiveness. The economy and
environment has become that of global competition, demanding customers, and ever
changing technology. Middle managers have to focus on strategic planning, new
organization structures, and technology changes. In order to achieve goals, managers
must possess the capabilities, characteristics, and ability to change in the new
Managers need to recognize that the old models of competing in markets has
changed, and it has put high demands on the way organizations compete. In order to
stay in business, managers have to create capabilities for their organizations.
Strategies have become focused on influencing industry standards and entering
nontraditional markets. Organizations have created relationships with suppliers,
customers, and competitors. It has made the middle managers job difficult because
he/she is dependent on others. While this has become a challenge, it has also helped
organizations to better influence resources.
Businesses today are based on ‘invisible assets’, such as, competencies, brands,
and reputation. These are an organizations intellectual property. It is difficult to
protect this type of property, and it has become an important roles for middle
Middle managers must be able to quickly help the organization if skills,
attitudes, behavior and business models change. Managers create motivation and
energy for employees, so they understand the importance of the changes. In addition,
organizations must have a shared agenda. The agenda should not just be shared with
employees, but also with customers, suppliers, and investors. The view of the future
must be impressive and motivational.
Middle managers must have certain characteristics in order to be an efficient
and effective managers. The issues of cultural acceptance, strong training beliefs, and
ethical behavior are key factors for the middle manager.
Managers need to recognize that other cultures may not share the same values
and beliefs as their own. Having the ability to understand these cultural differences
will give the middle manager an advantage in business. Organizations have become
global, and in order to remain competitive it’s important to understand the history,
religion, and language of other cultures.
In order to keep up with technology both managers and workers have to be
exposed to new ideas, technologies, and business practices. Managers must seek
opportunities for continuous education.
Managers need to create a system of standard values and behaviors for the
global organization. In addition, they