Monday, December 19, 2005

Middle Management Excellence

Another great article from Jonathan Byrnes from Harvard Working Knowledge. Link to Byrnes' "The Bottom Line" articles. Here he looks at the most important thing a CEO can do to max out a company's performance:
The answer is to creatively, aggressively, and systematically build the capabilities of the company's middle management team: the vps, directors and managers.
All major strategic intiatives are carried out by the middle. Secondly, a strong middle will produce outstanding operational results. This will reduce the need for the top levels to manage at lower levels. [Link to Managing at the Right Level] A strong middle will also proactively innovate.

Byrnes gives you the 3 nuggets to focus on in order to create middle management excellence. I'm a big fan of the 2-3 takeaway rule. Book, training, academic course and Byrnes even throws in Broadway musical...there should be 2 to 3 juicy nuggets [songs in Byrnes' case] that you should take with you.

Managing at the Right Level - [link to commentary] at each level, managers should increasingly learn and practice change management and leadership so they are masterful by the time they reach the VP level.

Coordinated Profitability Management - the middle must coordinate amongst themselves to understand which parts of the business are profitable and which parts are not. Byrnes recommends conducting a profitability analysis [Link] which should provide insights into where the company can increase current profitability and reposition for the future.

Managing as Teaching - if you find yourself constantly being pulled into day-to-day issues, the underlying problem is that you most likely have not succeeded in teaching your managers to manage. A vp, according to Byrnes should be at most 50 percent manager and 50 percent developer of managers.

He closes with a one line maniefesto for all managers. According to Byrnes:

The highest calling in management is teaching your managers to manage.
Middle management excellece, resting on managing at the right level, coordinated profitability management and managing as teaching, CAN be systematically developed and constantly improved. It is the ultimate point of leverage for ALL corporate performance.

I'm REALLY starting to like Byrnes a lot. At the beginning of this post, I linked to his list of articles from Working Knowledge. Required reading at this point, my friends.

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