The importance of developing change management capabilities in middle managers

Friday 01 April 2016
Middle managers are key players in any change programme, so ensuring they have the required change management skills is vital to any organisation’s success
Group of colleagues sitting around a table having a meeting

For many organisations the financial meltdown in 2008 and subsequent recession meant forced change and retrenchment.

As organisations emerge from the economic down turn, however, there is a need to deliver new strategies to ensure competitiveness, or in the case of the public sector a need to deliver value for money services efficiently and effectively.

The world is a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous place, so if organisations are going to have long-term futures then transformational change is required. This is not about re-arranging the deckchairs on the titanic – this is about a fundamental shift in thinking and acting.

And, it has implications for all members of the organisation.

Research indicates that where the machine perspective dominates organisational thinking, change programmes have a tendency to focus on hard aspects such as structures, systems and communication processes rather than softer elements of organisational culture.

Coupled with a constant turnover of senior management, the consequent loss of wisdom and a failure to share knowledge, many organisations seem incapable of learning about managing change.Man standing in front of an audience, giving a talk

Numerous areas of research have identified that middle management are critical players in managing change since they are the link between the strategic visioning and the grass roots implementation of new practices and behaviours.

However, many find the process of change difficult because they are not involved in its design.

Middle managers are closer to the sharp end and their employees are more likely to look to them for guidance – the distant leaders are just that – so it is doubly difficult if they are themselves not engaged wholeheartedly with the changes required.

This filters down into their teams, which reduces momentum and positivity even more.

Middle managers therefore need the skills to facilitate change and the emotional intelligence/resilience to deal with the journey.

Transformational changes that involve shifting culture are long- term initiatives that require perseverance and stamina. Maintaining focus and energy levels is hard work so it is useful to break the journey into chunks – it’s a bit like climbing Everest –with strategic milestones where the team can re-group and share in the success so far.

To make a positive contribution to the management of change a middle manager needs to:

  1. Understand self and identify their personal response to change
  2. Engage with others - acknowledge their perceptions, promote and facilitate dialogue
  3. Build emotional resilience in self and others

By understanding emotional responses to change in yourself you can then empathise with others and by legitimising concerns there is a move away from the negativity of resistance.

This in turn reduces anxiety and fear, which are the enemies of resilience. No change programme is going to be entirely without setbacks but being prepared and capable is more likely to result in success.

The Department of Business and Management at the Cheshire campus of Manchester Metropolitan University recognises that many busy professionals have already attained practitioner qualifications and significant practical experience, which together provides a sound foundation from which to develop their career.

However, in a highly competitive and changing business environment there is a need to ensure that skills and knowledge match the requirements of more complex job roles. So why not consider topping up your qualifications?

You can gain credits for your CMI qualifications at level 7 and work towards either a postgraduate Diploma or full MSc in Business Management or MSc Strategic Leadership and Change.

We offer flexible programmes on a blended or distance learning basis. For more information contact Jane Muir, senior lecturer in business and management at the Cheshire campus of Manchester Metropolitan University, e-mail: or telephone: 07912791391 /0161 247 5019

This is a sponsored article from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Cheshire campus