There were two the reasons to study only one medium-sized firm. First, the wish to pursue the research question – why some middle managers perceive themselves to be more involved than others – while keeping constant other variables, such as management structure, communication system, and firm culture. Second, rather than analyze some of the middle managers of several firms, a sample consisting of all the middle managers of one firm was preferred.
The primary data source was semi-structured interviews. The secondary data source was documents provided by the company concerning direction and functioning of its internationalization strategy. The interviews were conducted with all 15 middle managers and the two top managers of the firm.
Headquartered in Bolzano, Italy, it was founded in 1932 as a small installation service company. Nowadays, it is still active in the same sector but provides high quality installation engineering on a larger scale. Revenues of slightly over €70 million and a workforce of 250 people in three countries – Italy, Germany and Austria – place it among the largest of medium-sized firms. In 2004, the company decided to enter new markets in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Middle Managers’ role in internationalization
- Giving their subordinates some sense of continuity, they prevent chaos from breaking out in the organization, as internationalization often triggers intense emotions and anxiety.
- Middle managers who are open to change might prevent organizational inertia..
- They are critical to actually implement the strategic vision developed by top management.
- Their acquired local know-how in the foreign market allows the firm to overcome cultural and geographic distance.
Their influence in strategy formulation
- Selling issues to top management.
- Modifying information on the issue.
- Framing issues in a particular way.
- Mobilizing others to shift top managers’ attention towards certain issues.
Characteristics of their involvement in the strategy process
- Their influence is mainly in less risky issues.
- More involved in implementation than in formulation.
- Use of rational arguments to convince top managers of their views.
Positive effects of their involvement
- Improved organizational performance.
- More personal satisfaction.
- Psychological attachment to the organization and their job.
- More positive perception of the strategy.
Effects of their non-involvement
- Positive: It can reduce organizational inertia, avoid political behaviour in the strategy process, and remove decision making constraints faced by the firm.
- Negative: It may lead middle managers to take up opposition, act ineffectively or, in the worst case, sabotage implementation of the strategy decided by top management. It may also lead to strategic role conflict, as when middle managers’ perceptions of a strategic issue differ from those of top management.
Source: Study “Middle Managers in a Medium-Sized Firm: Their Involvement in the Internationalization Strategy