Entrepreneurial initiative within a company has been shown to be an effective means of stimulating and sustaining competitiveness. However, developing it poses an enormous challenge: it is not a question of personal or isolated attitudes, rather it is the result of the joint actions of all members of the organization. To rise to this challenge, companies must get to know their middle managers and their impact on the company’s bottom line better.
Why middle managers? Despite the fact that they are virtually unknown, they play four crucial strategic roles. They are at once business people, architects, leaders, and intermediaries. As business people, they use entrepreneurial approaches when implementing the strategy defined by upper management. In their role as architects, they focus on structure, systems, and processes in order to create a framework for action based on three pillars: modifying the physical system of the business unit by implementing new processes and procedures, creating and reallocating functions and services within the unit, and instituting new forums of communication. As leaders, they focus their attention on employees and on creating a supportive working environment. They can, for example, involve their employees in generating ideas and making decisions, in doing so motivating and influencing their attitudes and behaviors. Finally, as intermediaries, they facilitate the flow of knowledge between business units and with competitors outside the organization by conveying and adopting the best practices.
So what is their contribution to the bottom line? Their roles as architects, leaders, and intermediaries yield better company performance in terms of both financial results and fulfilling the interests of customers and employees. The role that contributes the most is that of architect, when they shape the processes and structures that make it possible for entrepreneurial initiatives to flourish.
Implementers of strategy
Regardless of what priority management may place on certain strategic behaviors, every single unit head must implement them and garner tangible results. This explains how within a single company certain units always yield better results than others. Surprisingly, managers with less education can generate more profits than their colleagues with more education. While the former may view their position as middle manager as a mere step within their professional career, the latter see their job as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their competency as executives. What is more, the latter remain in their jobs for longer and pay closer attention to them. Nor should women be underestimated. Although not too many occupy executive positions, they tend to be more successful at increasing their units’ profits.
There are more and more companies that initiate programs on entrepreneurial initiative. Executives would do well to get to know the profile of the middle managers they have and exploit their strategic roles in this entrepreneurial quest. While the strategy of the company’s management is key, the growth in profits is largely determined by those middle managers who implement the strategy, how they do so and the context in which they work. For this reason, in order for the strategy to be successful, they must be heeded and given greater authority. At the same time, it is useful to create a working atmosphere in which support, discipline, and trust prevail in order to enable these architects to give free rein to their entrepreneurial ideas.