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Middle managers: obstacles to change?

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

It may seem counterintuitive, but front-line workers—not middle managers— most often see eye to eye with senior executives on the need for action. In fact, says Robert Felton, a director of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., middle managers often try to thwart new initiatives.

“CEOs are trying to change things from the top,” says Felton, “and frontline people are trying to change things from the bottom and middle managers kill it. The middle manager is generally the enemy of serious change.”

Felton sees two kinds of middle managers: those who lack the mettle to rise but possess great know-how, and those on the promotion track. Either type, he claims, is capable of strangling change.

Felton advises forming a special task force with the front-line workers who support the change, and have them report directly to the senior people rather than middle management “… at least until the task is accomplished and perhaps permanently.”

— Adapted from “Why Everyone in an Enterprise Can—And Should—Be a Leader,” The McKinsey Quarterly and Knowledge@Wharton.

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