I was in a meeting last week with top leadership who were concerned about the performance of their organization. They were way behind in their timelines for their production schedule and struggling to keep their costs down. There was finger pointing all around – especially at the middle management – often called the frozen middle:
- “If only supply chain would only get the parts here on time”.
- “Engineering doesn’t seem to be able to solve their problems quickly enough”
- “I wish operations could schedule their work better”
Leadership and management need to work together – it’s not about just one or the other. “Both leadership and management involve influence, people and goals,” Dr. Joel Domingo, associate professor and academic program director of the Doctor of Education in Leadership program at City University of Seattle says. “While the old adage, ‘you manage tasks but lead people’ still rings true, there are nuanced differences.”
To look at the strength of an organization, you need to look at the strength of your middle management. The frozen middle is the most conservative layer in the organization. It is the most resistant to new ways of doing business, and to innovative ideas and perspectives. Middle managers have worked hard over the years to get where they are and they do not want to jeopardize that status. When leadership asks them to do something different, well, they’re not the first to jump on board.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to change this? To unfreeze the frozen middle? One company is approaching it by sending key middle managers to get a Masters of Science where leaders can choose from three focuses: change leadership, human resource management and nonprofit leadership. Each focus area teaches how to effectively make the best decisions, create high-performing teams, develop assured self-management, and lead the execution of strategic plans. Aligning leadership and managers is a sure way to help unfreeze the frozen middle.