The biggest obstacle is overcoming any uncertainty among the management. Only when management truly believes in the team’s ability to achieve its goals can the possibility to achieve them exist. This is especially a problem within bigger companies, where top management sets the targets that need to be achieved. The problem arises when the next level management is not convinced that these top management targets are achievable. If the next level management is not convinced that they can achieve these targets, the targets will not be achieved. What solutions exist to overcome this problem?
1. We can employ a restructuring consultancy to formulate the necessary action to achieve these targets. Then, the middle management has to apply the action, defined by the consultants.
2. The middle management can hold a workshop with all next level reports and explain the task. In an open and creative atmosphere, the necessary action may emerge from these workshops. In this situation, it is necessary that the middle management convince the next level management that the achievement of these targets is possible.
3. The middle management can break up the target set by upper management into smaller targets to be achieved by the next level management and leave it to them to work out the necessary, more manageable actions.
What is the preferred solution? For this problem, I always remember the question: How do you eat an elephant? The answer: Slice by slice. What does this mean? The preferable solution is to break down the targets of the upper management to targets that can be deployed to the next level management. Then, convince your next level management that it is absolutely necessary that these targets be achieved. You first have to convince yourself that they are absolutely necessary, since relaying this message requires authenticity and genuine urgency. If some of your people are not capable of defining and performing the necessary actions, grant them the opportunity to employ the help of consultants. Sometimes, the fresh view of a consultant can help to unveil new solutions.
Of course some tasks should not go to consultants, such as the following: Bring the business back on track. No consultant can achieve this task, if you, the specialist of the business, cannot show the way. Consultants will always come with their specific toolbox and apply this toolbox to your business. While this can produce helpful ideas, it cannot really shape your business into a new direction. For this task, you are the only person who can do it.
For this kind of task, the biggest help I ever got in my career came from the book: It’s Not Luck by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt. The novel depicts the behavior of a manager – how it should be. A manager has to understand the needs of the business and has to fight for this business in both directions, from upper management to next level management. For this, the manager is in a so-called “sandwich position.” This is a difficult position for middle management, but this it is the role they have to play if the business is to be successful.
So, to sum up: Take on targets, find your position, and fight to achieve the targets with creative ideas and authenticity.