The role of middle managers in strategy execution : a case study of a local authority council

Katoma, Fillemon Ndangi (2009-12)

Thesis (MBA (Business Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Successful strategy execution remains critical for any organisation. Yet many organisations seem to have difficulties in implementing their strategies, especially in the public sector. This study explores the role of middle managers in executing organisational strategies in the local government sector. The study adopted a qualitative research method and followed a case study strategy, using a local authority council (LAC) in Namibia. Using semi-structured individual interviews, I interviewed 10 middle managers, selected through applying purposive sampling and representing diverse characteristics of the target group. I introduced a theoretical framework consisting of four research focus areas to guide the study: the value-adding role of middle managers, the key enablers for middle managers to execute strategies successfully, the key processes they follow and the key tools they use to implement corporate strategies. I also conducted a critical literature review on the above focus areas. The findings suggest that middle managers interpret, communicate and translate organisational strategic goals into actions in their value-adding role as champions, synthesisers, facilitators and implementers. The results of the research study also indicates that communication and the availability of resources are key enabling factors, whereas systems, structures, policies and communication channels are key processes impacting on the middle managers' effective implementation of corporate strategies in this LAC. In the same vein, resources – information technology (IT) in particular, performance management systems and laws – were found to be the key tools. Some disconfirming evidence also emerged from the study, suggesting that some middle managers play a value-subtracting role, characterised by disruptive behaviour and being bogged down in routine duties. This research study is, at best, an explorative one, as it used a limited sample. Further research is necessary to gain more in-depth insights about the different roles of middle managers and their influence on strategy generation and implementation versus the role of top/senior managers. As the study employed a case study design, the generalisability of the findings is also limited to this LAC. Further, while I aimed to give a trustworthy account of the experiences of the research participants, many factors may have interfered with the processes of fair collection and interpretation of data, including personal emotional involvement with the topic, presuppositions formed from reading the literature, and various aspects of the interaction with the research participants. Further research is therefore needed to validate the assumed relationships that are expressed in the thematic map. This study is of value to the LAC in that, in the present context of this organisation, top management formulate the organisational strategic goals (vision, mission, strategic thrusts and objectives), with little involvement of middle managers. The study records the views of middle managers, indicating that there is a gap between the agenda setting and leadership of top managers and the observed roles of middle managers. Yet, effective strategy execution requires constant feedback, commenting on and questioning the strategy in order to facilitate understanding. Middle managers thus correctly argue that continuous dialogue and interaction with senior managers increases the alignment of their tactical initiatives with top management's conception of corporate strategy.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suksesvolle strategieuitvoering bly van deurslaggewende belang vir enige organisasie. Tog is dit oënskynlik vir menige instansie moeilik om hulle strategieë ten uitvoer te bring, veral in die openbare sektor. Hierdie studie ondersoek die rol van middelvlakbestuurders in die toepassing van organisatoriese strategieë in die plaaslike regeringsektor. Met behulp van ʼn kwalitatiewe navorsingsmetode en ʼn gevallestudieontwerp, is ʼn Namibiese plaaslike regeringsraad ('n sogenaamde LAC) onder die loep geneem. Semi-gestruktureerde afsonderlike onderhoude is met tien middelvlakbestuurders gevoer, welke tiental deur doelgerigte steekproefneming gekies is en die diverse kenmerke van die teikengroep verteenwoordig. Die studie word gerig deur ʼn teoretiese raamwerk met vier navorsingsfokusgebiede, naamlik die waardetoevoegingsrol van middelvlakbestuurders; die kerninstaatstellers vir middelvlakbestuurders om strategieë suksesvol in werking te stel; en die kernprosesse wat middelvlakbestuurders volg, sowel as die kerninstrumente wat hulle gebruik om korporatiewe strategieë uit te voer. ʼn Oorsig van kritieke literatuur is ook op elk van voormelde fokusgebiede onderneem. Die bevindinge dui daarop dat middelvlakbestuurders, in hulle waardetoevoegingsrol as kampvegters, sintetiseerders, fasiliteerders en toepassers, organisatoriese strategiese doelwitte vertolk, oordra en in dade omskakel. Die navorsing bevind ook dat kommunikasie en die beskikbaarheid van hulpbronne kerninstaatstellers is, terwyl stelsels, struktuur, beleid en kommunikasiekanale die kernprosesse is wat middelvlakbestuurders se doeltreffende inwerkingstelling van korporatiewe strategieë in die LAC onder beskouing beïnvloed. In dieselfde trant blyk hulpbronne – veral inligtingstegnologie, ʼn prestasiebestuurstelsel en wette – die kerninstrumente te wees. Die studie lewer egter ook teenstellende bewyse op dat sommige middelvlakbestuurders inderwaarheid ʼn waardeverminderingsrol speel, omdat hulle ontwrigtend optree en in roetinetake vasval. Hierdie navorsingstudie is hoogstens ondersoekend, met ʼn beperkte steekproef. Verdere navorsing is dus nodig om ʼn dieper insig in die verskillende rolle van middelvlakbestuurders en hulle invloed op die formulering en inwerkingstelling van strategie teenoor dié van top-/senior bestuurders te verkry. Aangesien die studie van ʼn gevallestudieontwerp gebruik maak, is die veralgemeenbaarheid van die bevindinge ook beperk tot die onderhawige LAC. Voorts, hoewel die studie 'n betroubare weergawe van die navorsingsdeelnemers se ervaringe probeer gee, kon verskeie faktore met die prosesse van billike datainsameling en datavertolking ingemeng het, wat persoonlike betrokkenheid by die onderwerp, vooronderstellings uit die literatuur, en vele aspekte met betrekking tot wisselwerking met navorsingsdeelnemers insluit. Die aangenome verhoudinge in die tematiese kaart moet dus deur middel van verdere navorsing bekragtig word. Die studie is van waarde vir die betrokke LAC, aangesien die topbestuur van die organisasie tans die organisatoriese strategiese doelwitte (visie, misie, strategiese fokuspunte en oogmerke) sonder veel oorleg met middelvlakbestuurders bepaal. Middelvlakbestuurders kon dus deur hierdie studie ook húlle menings lug, waaruit duidelik blyk dat daar ʼn gaping is tussen topbestuurders se agendabepaling en leierskap, en die waargenome rolle van middelvlakbestuurders. Doeltreffende strategieuitvoering verg egter deurlopende terugvoering oor, kommentaar op, en bevraagtekening van die strategie ten einde werklike begrip in die hand te werk. Middelvlakbestuurders het dus gelyk dat voortdurende gesprekvoering en wisselwerking met senior bestuurders nodig is om te verseker dat taktiese projekte op middelvlak in pas is met die topbestuur se gedagtes oor korporatiewe strategie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/957
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