Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Moving into middle management – Part 6: translating goals and priorities into tasks and schedules

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on March 19, 2011

This is my sixth posting in a series on transitioning into middle management (see the Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 142-146 for installments 1-5). I turn here to a set of skills that is important for any position where judgment and initiative are allowed, but that becomes crucial as you move into middle management.

Any employee can find themselves in a position of having to develop an effective operational How for accomplishing a generally stated What-to-do goal or objective, and at any level on the table of organization. Lower level managers are more apt to encounter this than are hands-on task oriented employees but they are still usually presented with specific operational goals and objectives. Mid-level managers often find most of their goals and priorities they are responsible for, arriving at their desks as general statements of goals without details as to how to achieve them.

• It is a part of a middle manager’s job to translate the generally stated objectives of strategic planning and prioritization into hands-on operational terms that lower level managers and their teams can then implement.
• They then take feedback and performance updates received and reframe this input into forms and metrics that address how effectively strategic goals and priorities are being met, and with input that can be used for making adjustments in strategy at a higher level if needed.

Note I define this role entirely in terms of results achieved, and in making the translations needed to bring teams and lower level managers to work on the right tasks in the right order and with the right priorities to reach strategic objectives. I explicitly note this here as I draw a distinction between functional levels on the table of organization for a results driven organization and what could be considered a more traditional placeholder level in a more rigidly authoritarian hierarchical system. By my defining criteria as outlined here, a mid-level management position in a rigid hierarchy, and an authoritarian from-the-top one may actually just be a glorified lower level manager or not really even a manager at all – just a messenger. And in a flat table of organization in a more entrepreneurial business even a seemingly low level manager may actually be a more senior mid level manager when you look at their role in actively translating strategy into action and in determining the terms for that.

Here I define management and management levels in terms of the business and organizational models that are actively emerging as we more fully enter the 21st century.

My next posting in this series is going to delve into issues of communications, in keeping everyone working under you working in synch, but without falling into the micromanagement trap.

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