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Keywords:

  • futures thinking;
  • leadership;
  • middle management;
  • Oshry;
  • systems thinking

Abstract

Systemic forces result in chronic underutilization of the knowledge and insight of middle management. This hypothesis is explored through a case study, which recounts both the efforts of a group of technical managers to affect R&D policy and staffing in their company and the negative reaction of their superiors to this initiative. The management group used various ‘futures thinking’ technologies as a backdrop to their proposals and these are described. The case data are then interpreted through the lens of Barry Oshry's organizational theory, with a particular focus on the difficulties of acting in a concerted fashion from the ‘middle’ of an organization. Some of Oshry's antidotes to the organizational pathologies impacting middle managers are discussed, including recommendations for executives who want to deploy their subordinates strategically. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.