Strategic Planning for Middle-Level Management
Middle-level managers usually don't get involved in the strategic planning process until the strategy has already been designed by the senior managers. However, mid-level management can play a productive role in strategic planning by offering feedback. They also can help turn broad strategic plans into specific short-term goals. Some companies give mid-level managers considerable autonomy.
When a business owner or senior management team puts a strategic plan together without consulting anyone involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, implementation can be a problem. Employees and front-line supervisors may feel that the relationship between the strategy and their daily activities is unclear. Mid-level managers can help prevent this type of problem by offering feedback during the strategic planning process. The overall strategy is still decided by the leadership of the business because they are the people in a position to see the big picture and plan accordingly. However, the mid-level managers can ask clarifying questions about how the strategy should be interpreted and applied on a daily basis.
Another way middle-level managers can contribute to the strategic planning process is through the creation of strategic action plans. These plans translate the company strategy into a strategy for the manager's own business unit or department. For the manager's action plan to be successful, the manager must thoroughly understand the company's overall strategic plan as well as the specifics of his own business unit. This enables him to translate broad goals into specific directives that the front-line supervisors will have no problem implementing.
Mid-level managers may be responsible for implementation more often than strategy, but the better they understand how strategy works, the better they will be at implementation. For instance, if the company switches to a high-volume sales strategy, the middle managers need to be familiar with the tradeoffs involved in that type of strategy to make it work. When designing the action plan to support the strategy, the manager of each department decides what his unit's most important contribution is and how to measure whether goals are being met.
Companies seeking to expand rapidly in a new market sometimes give their mid-level managers a lot of leeway to ensure they can respond rapidly to local circumstances. For instance, if a company opens a branch in a new city and the owner can't be there every day to assess the situation, it can sometimes make sense to let the managers of the new location control their own strategic direction. This decentralized strategy empowers middle-level managers to function more like independent business owners while the company establishes itself in the new location.