Gaining middle managers' support for strategic change: literature review
Thomas, Gail Fann
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Middle managers play a central role in the success or failure of strategic change. Senior leaders often refer to those who are reticent to support change as the “frozen middle.” This report reviews the extant literature on middle managers’ resistance to change. The literature describes middle managers as the central gatekeepers and boundary spanners in the organization. They are ultimately the sensemakers in the organization, taking information from senior leaders and interpreting it for others. Likewise, they receive an abundance of information from subordinates, peers, and outsiders and interpret that information for their superiors. When middle managers resist change, there are often compelling reasons for that reticence. These reasons often stem from a number of issues including poor communication from senior leadership, lack of clear goals, inadequate leadership development for implementing a change effort, fear of the unknown, lack of involvement in the early stages of the change, lack of authority or autonomy to execute the change, and lack of clear role expectations with respect to the change. Organizations that excel at middle managers’ support for strategic change have processes in place to develop both senior leaders and middle managers to aid them in creating a system for rapid change implementation.
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NPS Report NumberNPS-GSBPP-17-001
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