GPS & Middle Management

My wife and I decided to move to Texas to get closer to family.  My son came up to Utah to help me drive the truck with all our household goods.  As we travelled, I found myself comparing the way we travel today with how we used to travel a number of years ago.  Before technology, we would get a map or atlas that covered the area to be travelled and would mark the route with a yellow highlighter.  Particular attention was paid to transitions from one road to another, places where we could stop for gas, food, sleep, etc.

As we drove the road, if we got off the chosen route, it frequently involved stopping to refigure where we were and consider how we might get back on track.  It usually required extra time to make adjustments and get back on target.

On this move, we used a GPS.  It required no advance planning, maps, markers, or consideration for stops. We entered in the goal (an address in Texas), determined where we would sleep for the night, and let the GPS calculate the route.  We could have tried alternative routes, but chose to follow the GPS in this case.  The GPS told us about our next turn (a) two miles in advance, (b) a half mile in advance, and (c) as we needed to make it.   The one time we missed our turn (because we weren’t paying attention), it recalculated quickly what we needed to do to get back on course.

The GPS is a good analogy of the role middle management plays in an organization.  Upper management determines the goal and the basic course an organization should take.  The ability of an organization to adapt to changes in the workplace and market is greatly influenced by how well middle management recognizes challenges, communicates information up and down the structure, and adapts to changes required to stay on target.

What examples have you seen of how middle management helps keep upper management on track?

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