Investing in Mid-level Management

Whether small or large, every company needs an organizational structure to align and connect departments, people, and processes. This way, the company can attain maximum performance. Organizational structure also facilitates the execution of strategies and business objectives by helping to design a method that streamlines the flow of work throughout the company.

Traditionally, this structure is formal, with employees grouped by their function (finance, human resource), region, and product/service line. Since the 1800s, these structures have evolved. During the Industrial Revolution, people were organized as they added parts to a product while moving down the assembly line. When Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theory was applied within an organization, a worker was assigned one task for the most efficient performance. The core idea of the theory is productivity increases by optimizing and simplifying jobs. Taylor also proposed that both workers and managers cooperate to complete tasks more efficiently.

Today, organizational structures evolve rapidly, with more and more virtual organizations preferring flexible models which allow fluid, free-forming organizations. As companies continue to evolve and increase their global presence, future organizations may embody a fluid, free-forming organization with an entrepreneurial approach among all members.

Key elements that create an organizational structure include:

  • Job design refers to an employee’s tasks and responsibilities
  • Departmentalization refers to how a company organizes tasks to complete and coordinate work
  • The delegation refers to how tasks are assigned among employees by their managers.
  • Span of control refers to the teams or numbers of employees reporting to a manager.
  • Chain of command, referring to lines of authority within a company.

An organization cannot function without any of these elements; a smooth connection between these elements is essential to building a high-performing company.

There is a clear line of demarcation in a company between the managerial levels; mainly, there are three administrative levels. The management hierarchy determines the range of tasks performed by the managers (i.e., planning, organizing, directing, and controlling).

  • Top-level management (C-suite executives) are responsible for overseeing and controlling the company.
  • Mid-level management is responsible for implementing and monitoring work systems and diagnosing and resolving problems.
  • Lower-level management (supervisors) are responsible for the quality and quantity of production.

Mid-level management is the critical link between the top and lower-level management.

Mid-level Management Explained

Mid-level management may be defined as the management level accountable to top management; they ensure their respective departments/divisions function smoothly and usually have one or two subordinate levels of management under them. Smaller organizations often have only one layer of middle management; however, large organizations may also have senior and junior managers within middle management.

Mid-level managers are based at the heart of an organization. Often, they are responsible for overseeing employees who execute organizational plans.

Top-level management is responsible for driving the organization’s vision, leading employees, and deciding the direction to follow. However, it is middle managers who implement that vision. They are the essential link between the top-level management and the workforce and are responsible for executing plans as per the directives given by top-level managers. This also makes their position in the company a little delicate, as they have to balance customer needs with the top management’s aspirations.

With support from the top, they actualize organizational change and inspire subordinates to improve their performance. Organizations that do not have competent mid-level managers on their teams struggle with business operation. An organization with unstructured mid-level management risks severe growth problems in the future.

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Reasons to Invest in Mid-level Management

Retain Employees

Whenever things go south with people or their projects, mid-level managers are the first contact line for both top management and the lower management. Because they are primarily responsible for managing people and operations, they are also responsible for executing and improving the attendant processes to deliver on senior management’s initiatives and strategies. These activities help build the organizational work culture—or can cripple it.

It’s become a truism that poor management, more than any other reason, is responsible for employee churn. Gallup’s ongoing “State of the American Workplace” study shows that.

“The single biggest decision you make in your job—bigger than all the rest—is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits—nothing.”

Mid-level managers’ conduct within the organization is critical to building and maintaining the corporate culture.

Set the Pace for Change

Senior leadership designs new operational plans or proposes ideas for new product lines. They have a bird’s eye view of the company, so the middle-level managers are trusted to engage labor directly, as they are more connected to their teams.

Moreover, since they are privy to critical information, mid-level managers can see the larger picture and understand how specific, positive initiatives will impact labor. Finally, closer links to workers also understand their teams’ moods and emotional needs.

One cannot guarantee that change will be positive. Still, mid-level managers are at an excellent place to gauge the situation and mitigate any stress brought about by change.

Execute Plans

When middle management receives the proper authority, tools (IT systems, processes), and support, they are motivated to extend the same support to the people working under them. These positive initiatives help to drive and enhance their teams’ productivity. According to the Employee Excellence Imperative Report, employees who feel valued and respected are happier and more productive, contributing to positive performance outcomes and greater accountability.

Coordinate between Top Management & Labor

Senior leadership may propose and design new business strategies and policies, but those fail if they are not effectively communicated to the rest of the employees. An effective middle manager conveys critical information of processes and other business updates from top-level management to employees and vice versa. They also ensure that messages are received clearly as intended to avoid confusion or error later. They work to implement those strategies and policies as per the plan. In a nutshell, they help keep the communication channel open between the top-and lower-level teams.

Competent Mid-level Management Is Critical

Mid-level managers ensure that directives from corporate executives are carried out. Their critical placement in the organization includes responsibility for:

  • Monitoring employee performance
  • Assigning and supervising specific tasks
  • Ensuring all processes and procedures comply with the organization’s guidelines
  • Inspiring and encouraging employees to improve their performance
  • Proposing ideas to improve productivity
  • Interpreting top-level management’s strategy and translating it into everyday management policies
  • Reporting work and performance issues to top-level management.

This crucial link between the C-suite offices and labor can ensure the company achieves its goals. The failure to appoint and train the right people to serve in middle management can cripple a company.

Author Summary:
Matt Lawver

Matt Lawver

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