ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

March 1999

Facing The Music In The Global Marketplace

Military Intelligence - Not An Oxymoron

Starting A Revolution Where Everyone Wins

The New Leadership Class

Let's Give Them Something To Talk About

by Peter Block
Sorry We're Closed: Diary of A Shutdown

Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Sites Unseen

The Quality Tool I Never Use

Book Review


The New Leadership Class
Long Subject To Downsizing, Rightsizing and Streamlining, Middle Managers Come Into Their Own

Middle management used to be known in cost-cutting circles as a layer of fact frequently characterize as bureaucrats, bottlenecks and barriers. Creating an unnecessary stratum between executives and workers, middle managers consequently were heavily hit in “rightsizing”. Now, as more and more workers have been empowered to take control of their jobs, senior executives find they do not have the time to direct, coordinate and oversee worker activities. Middle managers are needed once again to bridge the gap. But there has been a sea change in what middle managers do and how they do it.

“Middle managers are a wonderful new resource to organizations now, “ asserts David Hofrichter, managing director The Hay Group, a management consulting firm. “They are very different from the managers who were laid off in droves. Untethered by old hierarchies and structure, they are individuals with leadership potential who have broad perspective. We see them as an emerging new leadership class.”

Companies Scramble for Talent
Companies are scrambling to identify and hire talented people for middle manager positions, a trend backed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) information. BLS predicts that of the top 10 occupations with the largest growth, the category of general manager and top executives will grow 15% between 1996-2006.

Hofrichter notes that it is now the middle managers, not the executives who lead teams and who can bring together groups to work across boundaries. These new leaders have the ability to get things done throughout the organizations because they are more mobile and able to move around easily. These new style managers have a broader skills set and facilitate solutions on their own, unlike their predecessors who retreated into an existing hierarchy to avoid making decisions.

“Developing leadership within an organizations is essential, especially when your long-term strategy includes implementing rigorous quality programs like GE’s Sigma Six. These types of aggressive programs require new style leaders to make them work. And not only of the work for the bottom line they deliver homegrown leadership program that is hard to beat,” says Hofrichter.

Middle Managers Reach People
Peter Cullen, senior manager quality and customer loyalty for Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto,Ontario feels that there is only so much that senior management can do to influence performance. "At the end of the day it is all about coaching, goal setting and performance reviews," asserts Cullen. "The new middle manager is coming in with these skills and senior management as figured out that the only way to execute their strategies is through people and people are reached through middle managers. How can a senior manager touch and reach out to 3,000 or more people? The middle manager is the link between senior management and the front line and the customer. And their behavior is driven by their manager."

Middle Managers Have Handle on Process Improvement Methodology
Yet some individuals such as Maryann Brennan, president of Brennan Worldwide, Inc., New York, NY haven't really seen middle managers coming back. "What I have seen is that the new manager is versed in process improvement more than the old style middle managers and therefore brings something new to the table," says Brennan. "They are able to teach employees about process improvement and not just coach and mentor, but really introduce process methodology." Regardless, middle managers, once viewed by the highest levels of corporate America as just extra weight to the bottomline, are now once again assuming a valuable role in successful organizations.

March '99 News for a Change | Email Editor
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