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The strategic role of middle managers, collaborative relationships between top management and the middle, and the impact of these roles and relationships on organization performance

Bowd, L. (2002) The strategic role of middle managers, collaborative relationships between top management and the middle, and the impact of these roles and relationships on organization performance. DBA thesis, Henley Business School, University of Reading

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Since 1980, two areas have dominated research into the Strategic Management Process. First, is the large body of work focusing on the role of the Top Management Team (TMT) in the strategic process. Much of this research has its roots in Hambrick and Mason's, 1984, Upper Echelons Theory. Strategic Decision-Making (SDM) is the second element of the strategic process where researchers have concentrated their efforts, pursuing issues of content, context and process. While researchers generally sought out those factors that contributed to SDM effectiveness, there has been a tendency to focus attention on how the TMT makes strategic decisions. Although improved organization performance has been attributed to characteristics of the TMT and SDM process, relatively little research existed prior to 1990 on how strategy was implemented effectively. More significantly, minimal attention was paid to those being asked to lead the implementation, the middle manager. Ironically, it was in the wake of dramatic downsizing and re-engineering, in the early l 990's, that both practitioners and academic researchers began to recognize the significance and strategic impact of "the middle" on many phases of the strategic management process. This research investigates the roles and relationships of middle managers in the strategic process and the impact they have on organization performance. A comprehensive review of relevant literature, including that which addresses strategic decision making, strategy implementation, top management team and middle management strategic behaviour, was used to establish the strategic significance of middle managers and act as a foundation for the research. Replication of the work of Floyd and Wooldridge (1990, 1992A, 1997) was undertaken to confirm the strategic roles fulfilled by middle managers in the formulation and implementation of organization strategy. If, and how, these strategic roles, and the influence that accompanies them, impacted organization performance was another focus of this research. How the strategic roles of the TMT and middle managers interact, to shape and implement strategy, was investigated by attempting to replicate the work of Hart and Banbury (1991, 1992, 1994). The replicated model formed the basis of an investigation of the impact of strategy making modes on organization performance. Utilizing constructs developed by Miller (1997), implementation effectiveness was assessed and its relationship with organization performance evaluated. Lastly, efforts were made to identify possible inter-relationships between middle management strategic roles, organization strategy making modes and organization performance. Data representing the responses of 132 managers, predominantly at middle levels, in 40 organizations, replicated the strategic roles model outlined by Floyd and Wooldridge. This gave strong support to the validity and generalizability of the concept that postulated four key strategic roles. Championing Alternatives and Synthesizing Information that provide upward influence, and Facilitating Adaptability and Implementing Deliberate Strategy, which provide downward influence. Correlations and regression analysis demonstrated a limited relationship between the strategic roles and organization performance. This was consistent with the original research and suggests a complex relationship between strategic roles, influence and performance. Perceived upward influence was greater than downward, and more directly affects performance. However, this was only a moderate relationship. The same sample casts some doubt on the generalizability of the Hart and Banbury strategy modes model. However, although it was not possible to fully replicate the model produced from their research, the findings of this work do support the conceptual orientation of their model and proposes a model that has three of five modes in common, with two others sharing similar characteristics. It appears that situational factors, including structure of the questionnaire, the managerial group sampled, and the industry and business environment of the respondents may impact responses. However, in the conceptual model tested by this researcher, all strategy modes featuring collaboration between top management and others, including the middle, had a very strong relationship with performance variables, and the cumulative model shows three of the modes combining for a strong impact on performance. Confirmatory factor analysis, using structured equation modeling, supported the overall structures and relationships between variables and constructs. Similarly, SEM supported the conclusion that most strategic roles made a weak direct contribution to overall organization performance, while strategy making modes were strong contributors. Further modeling was able to show that while virtually no relationships existed to demonstrate the impact of strategic roles directly into strategy making modes, when particular strategy modes are active it can be expected that some or all strategic roles will be present. Lastly, the research found that the strategic influence measures were good predictors of implementation effectiveness, and in turn implementation effectiveness indicators and measures were strongly related and predictive of overall organization performance.

Item Type:Thesis (DBA)
Thesis Supervisor:Joynt, P. and Drew, S.
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Management College
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School
ID Code:87060


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