There are over 10.5 million middle managers in the United States today and I am one of them... by choice. Yes, I said it! In fact, at this point I have spent the larger part of my career navigating what I often find to be an interesting space between individual contributors and executive teams. Of course there are all the well documented challenges such as the absence of autonomy, limited career advancement opportunities, unrealistic workloads and a lack of clout but for me these are outweighed by the rewards of being a fundamental part of the business core.
Middle management is the glue and the grease, the interpretation command center. It is where escalations are solved, guidance provided and careers nurtured. It is also where the grand visions, innovative ideas and high level road maps are deciphered, molded and transformed into actionable plans. And it is where delivery reality in all its nuances is channeled for top level assimilation. Middle managers are essentially two way conduits maintaining accord in the corporate hierarchy.
Here is a video explaining middle management and how to survive it:
Many companies have perceived middle managers to be superfluous and have reduced their numbers accordingly only to experience a widening gap in understanding between strategy and delivery. As an example, the Google founders were not initially middle management fans. However, when presented with analysis of performance data they actually moved forward with an internal project to retain and tool their managers for success. It appears other companies have been following suit much to my delight.
I personally consider one of the greatest challenges in middle management today, the very perception of middle managers. I am not suggesting all middle managers are excellent or even good. 10.5 million is a lot of people and there is obviously going to be a wide ranging quality, as is the case in any profession. What I am saying though is that we are not all dull bureaucratic blockers not worth our salt. Times have changed since Office Space but it appears that perceptions have not.
So I think we middle managers need to band together, throw in ten bucks each and get ourselves a brilliant PR firm to run a value campaign for the magic middle. We need to replace the term Middle Management with something more catchy and establish a fresh new professional image that is not derived from Dilbert or The Office, both of which I find very amusing I should add.
Are you in?
"Management innovation is going to be the most enduring source of competitive advantage. There will be lots of rewards for firms in the vanguard."