Middle Management, the Magic Power

Practical views to organizational change, part 1:

Challenges in finding resources to put a change initiative into practice? This is a common issue in many organizations. According to many studies it is among the most common reasons hindering implementation of changes. However, a surprisingly effective resource can be fond in-house. It is an existing capability: the middle management. Supervisors are the real key to change implementations, as long as they are given the tools, know-how and the time to act on the matter.

Middle management plays an important role in creating dialogue and communication during a change initiative. Managers are able to anticipate the employee needs in communication. They can edit the messages to be more understandable using the shared ‘lingua’ and make the messages more targeted to the audience. They are able to comprehend the current situation within the change journey of a company and identify the different stages of the journey in relation to the overall target vision. They can mediate regular and direct feedback from employees, and keep the project management up to date on the progress of matters.

Management supports change implementation best when they are able to talk positively about the change initiative, and when they are able to paint a clear picture of the future for their subordinates. They encourage people to take on new ways of working and new behaviours, particularly by leading by their own example from the beginning. Then the supervisor will be a coach, and not only acting in the role of a supervisor.

The supervisor can also work on an emotional level to support employee well-being. They see and know what the employees are experiencing, and they are able to show empathy and support in discussions and group meetings. They are in key position in allowing discussion about workers’ concerns, but also about possible solutions. They are also the key source when you want to reward employees for their contributions.

The supervisor is also able to predict the change in resistance in advance. He is able to identify the effects of changes in people’s roles and responsibilities in practice. He may even be able to identify the sources of change resistance, and thus he can intervene early. By answering questions at an early stage, the supervisor can significantly reduce the risks associated with the resistance. Manager’s view of the causes to helps staff understand and accept to the changes, but, above all, manager makes adopting possible by encouraging to open discussion and thus builds common confidence that the challenges can be overcome in cooperation and together with the staff.

The most important thing, however, is that the role of middle management in any change initiative is recognized, and they are empowered with practical guidance and means: Training, support, and a unified vision are required. No real magic required there, even the power of middle management IS magical.

Mari Hedberg is a change consultant and organizational development expert. She has served as project manager in change programs, acted as the HR director and as OD consultant for more than 20 years. She has worked with different sizes of organizations and projects, form outsourcing, mergers, cultural change and human development initiatives, talent management included.
Contact by e-mail: mari.hedberg@gaialeadership.com

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