ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - June 2001


Issue Highlight — A Sad and Grateful Remembrance
- Peter Block reflects on the life of friend and colleague, Joel Henning. Read about his lifelong contributions and what we can learn from his vision for a brighter future.

 In This Issue...
A Lesson In Leadership
Holding On
Microfiching For A Solution
Solving The Presentation Puzzle

Reopening "The Diary Of A Shutdown"

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Brief Cases

Return to NFC Index

    Pageturners        Book Reviews with a Twist

“Mining the Middle Ground: Developing Mid-Level Managers for Strategic Change”
By David N. Williams


David N. Williams opens by reminding us that broad-scale change is “incredibly difficult,” these efforts fail somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of the time and how practical it is to attribute these failures to “middle managers”—the stereotypical barriers to change. That’s about where he stops agreeing with conventional wisdom and begins a very strong challenge to the assumption that mid-level managers are inherently deadwood. To the contrary, he argues that they are a unique, wasted resource, waiting to be tapped. And he shows us how, by providing a thorough, well-developed strategic change methodology that draws on an organization’s mid-level managers as key players. Developing, enabling and involving mid-level managers can increase an organization’s chances of strategic success, as well as provide it with far more effective, engaged managers.

   This book explores both the theory and day-to-day logic behind the value of involving middle managers, and then deals with the “how-to” side of making it work. It takes you through the approach step-by-step, beginning with senior management’s role through the work of middle management “Campaign Teams” to front-line employee projects and ending with testing and implementing changes.

   “Mining the Middle Ground” is rich in case studies. Drawn from over 15 years as a consultant, Williams interviews with senior and middle managers, and front line employees provide a wealth of “lessons learned” and document the experiences and challenges of using this approach. They also demonstrate the flexibility of the model by showing how the approach can be customized for a range of organizations, from a four-seasons resort to a manufacturing company. My favorite case study is the Four Seasons Resort that used the model to tackle “skier risk, golf course slow-play and guest registration.”

Favorite Chapter: I have two. The topic of Chapter 7 is “Communication.” It’s my favorite simply because it’s there. This critical area is often overlooked or minimized. In addition, Chapter 11, “Implementing Change”. is well-grounded in practical experiences and best practices and could be used as a primer for any change initiative.

Favorite Lines: “Do not ‘over-hype’ the [campaign] launch because big high-charged announcements do not communicate priority, they feed cynicism,” and “a whisper introduction is preferable to brass-band hoopla.”

   Throughout the book Williams drives home the points that “change consumes resources and large-scale change consumes resources large scale,” and “organizational change has to involve all levels.” The book is best read once for concepts and a second time for details. When you’re finished, you’ll have an in-depth understanding of the enormity of the challenge to bring about strategic change in an organization, but also how much middle managers should be a part of it.

Reviewed by Carol L. Sheridan, Carol Sheridan & Associates, Montgomery Village, Md.

“Mining the Middle Ground: Developing Mid-Level Managers for Strategic Change,” David N. Williams, 2000, CRC Press, ISBN 1-57444-295-3.

Book Ratings:

= Pick it up today
  **** = Overnight it
*** = Snail mail it
** = At a library?
        * = Never mind


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