How Middle Management Steers Your Company

Most of the important decisions may be made in the C-suite, but the chief executive officer is not enforcing new [...]

May 25 2011 by ChiefExecutive.net


Most of the important decisions may be made in the C-suite, but the chief executive officer is not enforcing new policies and interacting with lower-level employees. The people implementing your vision are the middle managers. Ethan Mollick, a Wharton management professor, recently published People and Process: Suits and Innovators: Individuals and Firm Performance.

Mollick’s paper asserts that the old opinion that companies’ performances (successes and failures) are based on strategy, human resources, and management systems are incorrect. Mollick says that a company’s success is based in its people, “high-performing innovators alone are not enough to generate performance variation; rather, it is the role of individual managers to integrate and coordinate the innovative work of others.”

Mollick suggests that companies should be investing more in their middle managers, who are employees with difficult jobs such as project management, resource allocation, and seeing that deadlines are met.

In his analysis of the gaming industry, Mollick was able to see that top management positions explain less than 5% of performance variations in a company. That means the burden of performance lies on the other 95% of your employees. It is your middle managers with the power, and it’s time to start treating them that way. Remember, “they are not interchangeable parts in an organization.”

Read: Why Middle Managers May Be the Most Important People in Your Company