It’s the end of the line for mid-management. Or is it?

Mid-management is either redundant or repurposed. It’s your choice.

The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lock-downs have called into question how we could work and what the structures of our organizations may look like from this point forwards. Immediate pressure on costs means some organizations are cutting staff. For many this looks like the standard fallback restructuring approach with loss of capability and valuable IP. But equally there’s no point keeping staff just to feed the existing bureaucratic engine, much of which revolves around reporting upwards to C-suite and Boards.

…there’s no point keeping staff just to feed the existing bureaucratic engine…

It’s curious. I’ve open floated the idea to public and private sector CEO’s of giving their Ministers and Board Chairs a log-in into management software so they can always be up with the state-of-play across the complete portfolio of projects the government or business is investing in. The reaction is normally one of horror seemingly because of a fear that they will lose control, coupled to an inability to cope when the Minister or Board Chair start asking uncomfortable questions. But you can’t give what you don’t have. Digging a little bit further invariably reveals that the Senior Management Team doesn’t have this single view across all their projects and rely on Spreadsheets and hard-copy documents. So if the key stakeholder asks for this view it either causes great consternation and a whole lot of frenzied activity, or a blunt response that it will take too much work to provide such a view, and it will be out-of-date by the time it is provided. Neither of these is an acceptable response.

The technology is now available to provide all the necessary data, in one place, in real-time and available to anyone with an authorized log-on to the system. That’s what we do for a living. We talk about Blueprints and Living Plans. The challenges we normally strike are that few believe it’s possible because they’ve never seen it, or they have a management mindset based around not telling key stakeholders too much in case they start digging, or asking tricky questions. The first is easily demonstrated. The second is more difficult to overcome but not impossible.

The technology is now available to provide all the necessary data, in one place, in real-time and available to anyone with an authorized log-on to the system.

Based on what we’re seeing teams that are concerned about the information they’re sharing are worrying needlessly. Key stakeholders struggle when presented with mediocre, outdated information and are more likely to get niggly as a result, and put more pressure on the business. Feeding them poor information isn’t going to make them go away. The answer lies in changing the game especially in a world with little tolerance for inefficiency and waste.

We’ve been working on the concept of replacing reports with Storyboards which are interesting to look at, interactive, and supported by very detailed data from all levels of the business. What we’ve realized is that these Storyboards also provide the working framework for a new type of mid-management where data is used to manage both upwards and downwards, in real-time. Operating in a way that enables mid-managers to immediately tap into rich sources of data means their focus shifts from limited oversight monitoring to new value creation. They will also be in a position to provide confirmation to senior management about how well the business is functioning, and the degree to which they can rely on data for strategic decision-making.

…these Storyboards also provide the working framework for a new type of mid-management where data is used to manage both upwards and downwards, in real-time.

So here’s at least part of the answer. Strip out the unnecessary bureaucracy no matter how long it’s been in place. Commit to data-driven management and decision-making that gives you, and everyone following you, confidence. Take a relentlessly positive approach and reinvent the role of mid-managers so they become value creators able to work both upwards and downwards, in real-time. As story-tellers invite your stakeholders into a world guaranteed to delight them.

As story-tellers invite your stakeholders into a world guaranteed to delight them.

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