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May 28, 2006

Aspiring to middle management

Jamie Notter's post at We Have Always Done It That Way on middle-level thinking is one of the most compelling blog posts I've read all year:

"What associations really need to develop, however, is their middle-level thinking. They need to devote more time to discussing issues and making decisions that rise above the minutia of implementation, but have more subtlety or definition than the blanket statements of the mission and vision realm."
You've nailed it, Jamie. I couldn't put my finger on this problem until you articulated it, but I've witnessed this phenomenon at every association I've ever worked for. I wonder if Jamie would agree that these middle level considerations are typically centered around "soft" or "intangible" factors.

I'd like to hear more on this topic, Jamie.



Jamie Notter said...

Hey Ben,

Thanks for your kind words!

I promise to write more on the topic, but first, what were you thinking in terms of the mddle level being on soft or intangible factors? I think that might be true in some cases, but not exclusively. A lot of the missing middle level thinking on strategy, for instance, is on very hard, tangible things--it just requires making a choice that people are afraid to make. So tell me more about what you meant.

Ben said...

I guess I was taking cues from some of the example questions you wrote like "what is the definition of a team player?" and "how does this program affect our brand?" To me, those are questions that don't have a definitive answer, unlike many of the tactical questions we ask like, "During what hours should the phones be answered?" or the missional questions we ask like, "Does organizing an AIDS walk team for our association members really fall within the scope of this association's objectives?"

Mike said...

I did once experience this kind of "mid-level" thinking, unfortunately, nothing came from it. The implementation just fell by the wayside -- it wasn't anyone's job to get those things done. It fell below the senior staff, and those below had too much on their plates already. So since no one really had much invested in seeing the implementation of a mid-level "strategy" come about, it never happened. That said -- Jamie's idea is a good one, so long as someone owns it.