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Pattern of Middle Managers Being Left Behind

There's a pattern of Middle Managers left behind when an organization kickstarts transformation.

Let's cover first what we see when we first walk into an organization that's kickstarting transformation when it comes to Middle Managers:

  • They are among the last to know the why behind transformation efforts and the how.
  • They don't understand what it means, what's in it for them, or how it benefits their department or functional area in delivering their desired outcomes.
  • They are to provide employees to join new cross-functional teams that represent their department or functional area, with little explanation of why and how, with fewer employees, a Manager is to deliver outcomes.
  • Their employees are learning new ways of working and thinking, but Middle Managers don't seem privy to the training.
  • They don't have the tools, training, and skills to support their employees working in a new way, so they don't understand how to bring it back into their department or functional area.
  • They seem to be the last to be invited to the cross-functional team sharing with Leaders. They are left behind and don't understand what they are working on, how this is different, and the progress made.

Here are a few steps you can take so this doesn't happen in your organization:

  • As you communicate the why behind the organization transformation and connect with different groups, such as Middle Managers, speak to what is important to them, cover how it helps to solve their challenges and what's in it for them, and how it will accelerate how they deliver on desired outcomes.
  • Allow room for a questions and answer period so Middle Managers can alleviate their concerns and feel heard.
  • When asking for an employee from their department or functional area, be clear on what they will be working on and why, and how this time spent away will benefit them because now the entire organization will be swimming in the same direction toward those desired outcomes. The learnings from this work can provide insights to make the progress they need toward their customer and business outcomes.
  • Train them. Uplevel their skills, so Middle Managers can best support their employees' working and thinking in a new way, and they have a path to bring it into their functional area or department.
  • Invite them to Team demos (share-outs, showcases). Let them see how this way of working is different. It gives them a chance to help, support, celebrate the wins, and become your champions that advocate for transformation.

Bringing Middle Managers early into the fold can make a difference toward successfully kickstarting transformation.