Human Enterprise Development
Moving Beyond Dissatisfaction & Poor Performance
A national social service association, with a membership
of 150,000 has been in turmoil for several years. Throughout
this period staff has remained stable, but steadily increasing
financial shortfalls and talk of downsizing are leading to
talk of people jumping ship. Middle managers are complaining
that top management is insensitive and inattentive to their
issues. Projects are being held up, and there are questions
about who has sign-off authority. Work is frequently coming
to a frustrating crawl.
The director's issues
- Need to assure the work flows more smoothly.
- Need to find a way to provide support to middle managers
so they perform effectively.
We set up a "peer group" of middle managers and
hold meetings regularly to discuss common issues. Through
these discussions the managers confirm:
- As a result of fluctuations in upper management focus,
middle managers are getting confusing signals.
- Work is coming to a halt as they try to interpret the
sometimes contradictory signals.
- Some work will continue to be very affected, but other
areas can be dealt with more smoothly.
- The vision and mission of the organization is shifting,
and middle managers need to operate in new ways.
Middle managers empower themselves, asking, "Is the response
to new issues available at this level, or do we need additional
input?" They also ask, "Are we responding to organizational
anxieties or realities?" Through their group meetings
and frequent updates among themselves, they more fully appreciate
the extent of their authority and organizational realities.
Middle managers are more successful handling their workflow,
and several start holding more frequent, regular meetings
with their work groups to smooth workflow within their own
Middle managers continue to be pleased with the outcome of
their ongoing efforts to work closely with one another and
not be unduly hampered by some of the difficulties that upper