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Can your company survive without middle managers and what countries can learn from it

Ted Blackwater |
A company without middle managers looks very tempting: just the leadership and workers, everyone doing their job without too much interference. But the more you look at it, the more it looks like a bad idea.

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First, lets see what the middle management is. Simply put, everyone between the leadership and workers belongs to the middle management group. In other words, every person that makes sure that leaders' plans are executed are middle managers.

So, why would we remove the middle management? The idea is to remove people who monitor, measure, follow, report, and oversee other employees. That way, the idea goes, workers would feel more freedom and the company would save on that step between the leaders and workers.

But can it work that way? The first problem is who will give the task to whom. Employees must work and every person has its own idea how to get things done. Some would spend more time to marketing, some to production, and if everyone has theirown opinion that is a huge problem.

This is exactly where middle managers come into the game. They are, simply put, the glue that keeps company together.

Top management thinks about overall strategy and how to achieve some goals. It's on middle managers to transform that big picture to concrete work, tasks, measures, motivations, products.

Middle managers carry day to day operations and they are important because they are people the top management may rely on, they are in a sense ears and eyes of the top management. Top managers are far from workers and all their worries and issues they have in everyday life.

How to organize time, what to work on first, what are the priorities, how to deal with customers, how to solve problems, those things are not in the description of the top management. They create the overall picture and it's on someone else to make it work. That "someone else" are middle managers.

Middle managers are uniquely positioned to understand what the workers need and they serves as a communications channel to top management. Because, workers work and don't have time for meetings that interrupt their production. And because the top management has no time to deal with "I need more pencils" type of problems.

What is also important is that the tone of the messages delivered to workers plays an important role in everyday work. Middle managers know their people and their motivation and nobody can replace them in that respect. They are trained to interpret the messages of the top management and they know how to dispatch tasks to be done and those goals achieved.

There is another point: middle managers usually begin their career as workers and they have some specific skills and knowledge which means they can translate "better products" to something meaningful. They have a large network across the organization because they were workers and they can communicate fast between departments.

If the company changes the course, middle managers can quickly transform their part of the organization accordingly to new needs and they can take a part of burden on themselves so that workers can continue to do their job. They can find a fine balance between the change some may oppose and business goals that must be reached.

Without middle management a company would be in big problems. Top management would be forced to deal with trivial duties while workers would be one step from "I have no idea what to do".

To make things more clearer, let's draw a parallel between the company and the state. The government is top management, people are workers, and all governors, senators, mayors are the middle management.

Now, what happens if there is no middle management (a dictatorship) or it works poorly (in some countries). You get a country that performs poorly compared to other countries, even when compared to its neighbors.

You get a country that misses its opportunities because ministers didn't do their job. You get a drivers shortage because somebody didn't calculate things properly and in time. You get many dead people because somebody didn't ordered enough breathing machines. You get a country that can't find markets. You get a country that depends on people buying without knowing where people would earn that money to spend.

The situation is the same: in both cases there must be somebody between the top and the bottom to make things running. Otherwise they don't run as expected.

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