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CEOs and Middle Managers – who is more important

I heard Sir Nick Scheele, now retired from his post as President of Ford Motor Company, say that at Ford middle managers were known by the top bosses as ‘the layer of clay’. That was in the 1990s, when de-layering, or removing vast swathes of middle management, was a corporate sport, sometimes known as BPE or BPR – Business Process Engineering or Re-engineering.

Led by the thinking of Hammer and Champy, bosses at the top spent the early to mid 90s re-engineering to improve their business results – slashing, mostly, for short-term financial gain and pretending that what they were doing was being ‘lean’and agile. Luckily, they had the enemy identified for them as middle managers and the hollowing out of businesses, under the pseudonym ‘de-layering’ , was a major blood sport for a time.

Now, I don’t want to defend middle managers en masse. As with any other ‘layer’ a proportion are good, a proportion are bad. But, I do like it when pendulums start to swing the other way. So, I like this post on BNet’s ‘Dog & Pony’ blog:

Now, ten solid reasons why You — Managing in the Middle — Are More Valuable than Your Company’s CEO:

  • You know how stuff really gets done. Let’s face it, process maps mean very little when you know that to get your PC up and running again, the fastest route is to buy a muffin for Oscar in IT.
  • You know what motivates individuals. You’re with them every day. Sometimes it’s cash, time off for a kid’s event, or just some simple recognition. Whatever the case, you’re in a position to help motivate both in- and extrinsically more than anyone else.
  • You know the customer well enough to get to the truth. You are them, they are you, and there’s a symbiotic bond. More than anyone, the customer will tell you exactly what they need and how to sell to them.
  • You know the vendors as well as the competitive landscape. All that shooting the bull with Marvin, who supplies the whole industry, really pays off when he tells you that your biggest competitor is never going to get that new launch off the line. With some tweaks, your firm can make a killing!
  • You don’t have to defend the original strategy. This is BIG! Since you didn’t devise the strategy, you aren’t obligated to defend it. Instead you can speak openly and tell it like it is. Do tell brothers and sisters…do tell!

The remaining five are on the Dog & Pony blog and you can reach it by clicking here (I know that’s a bit annoying, having to jump out of here to go there: But it’s not fair on them if I reproduce all ten points here so you don’t have to visit their blog. It’s dodgy ethically, kinda stealing their material instead of making you aware of it. So, I hope you don’t mind me sending you over to the authors for the remaining five points if you want them).

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