Middle managers and strategy: Microdynamics of inclusion

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Abstract

This paper examines the role of middle management in strategic processes in bureaucratic organizations. There is evidence of extensive dissatisfaction among middle managers, who often perceive that they are excluded from strategic processes. This exclusion is de-energizing, inefficient, and in the end, expensive. Although an element of exclusion is probably inevitable, the extent to which it occurs varies across organizations. This suggests that both exclusion and its consequences can be alleviated. An application of microsociological theory to this problem focuses attention on discrete communications about strategic generalities between superior and subordinate. This paper argues that middle managers may either be excluded or included in such ‘strategic conversations’, but inclusion does not guarantee satisfaction. When included they may emerge energized or de-energized around strategic issues, depending on several important factors. Finally, the paper discusses the implications of these dynamics for more macro level processes, in particular, strategy as allocation of resources and strategy as interpretative schema. A set of propositions as to the likelihood of increasing or decreasing feelings of inclusion and motivation, and of sustaining such feelings over time, concludes this discussion.

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