Strategy and Innovation
The Roles of Academic Middle Managers in Higher Education Paper presented to the 27th ANNUAL EAIR FORUM 28 to 31 August 2005 Riga, Latvia

Name of Author(s) A.J. Kallenberg

Contact Details Faculty of Education Hogeschool Leiden, University of Professional Education Zernikedreef 11, 2333 AK Leiden, +31 71 5188845 e-mail:

Key words 1. Leadership 2. Management 3. Strategic Planning



This paper explains the development of, and presents a theoretical framework for, harnessing the strategic roles of the academic middle manager in Dutch Higher Education1, thereby increasing the Higher Education’s ability to learn, innovate, and develop competitive advantage. Although it is developed in the context of Dutch Higher Education, the framework has applicability in other countries and in relation to other roles. The framework is developed from theoretical models of role interactions in an educational context and in business organizations. It is also based on an empirical pilot study of the role of the academic middle manager and reviews of other relevant literature. The aim of this paper will be to explore and discuss ways of analyzing the way in which academic middle managers influence the strategic process in the university.

Strategy and Innovation: The Roles of Academic Middle Managers in Higher Education


It is difficult to be specific about academic middle management, because firstly the category of middle manager has fuzzy edges; secondly since there are many different types of middle managers, and thirdly it is a role in transition. In this research the academic middle manager is defined as the manager who is integratedly responsible for the education (from strategy to implementation) of the education program (or department) within the directives of the head of department and the governing board of the institution. As such, their function denominations are mainly like 'opleidingsdirecteur' or ‘director of education’ (on universities) and as 'clusterdirecteur', school director or ‘academy director’ (on professional universities).
Minimal research to academic middle managers

The literature on school leadership often overlooks the critical role that academic middle managers play in leading teams of teachers. They are the ones that are to ensure that curricula are developed, delivered and assessed, that programs are evaluated and also that teachers are assessed. Middle management is the level at which university policies and strategies are effectively translated into practices and into concrete actions. Despite this critical relevance to the innovation process, however, the role of academic middle managers has remained largely unexplored in the literature on educational and organizational behavior. Research on what middle managers actually do in universities has been minimal (Van Hout, 2001). Those studies that were relevant, for instance those that have analyzed in depth the origins, behaviors, tasks and cognitions of middle managers, are not very recent and therefore additional research is necessary. The same goes for a set of studies that focuses
1 Higher education in the Netherlands includes universities and professional universities. There is an increasing equality under these
organizations. The previous decades the professional universities have experienced a lot of fusions and they have developed into more or less similar organizations (both in size and in activities). Both universities and professional universities determine part of this research. In this paper, universities and professional universities are mainly appoint as universities, with which I mean however both organizations.


on managerial attitudes and behavior from an individual perspective while from an organizational perspective they emphasize processes such as entrepreneurship or innovation. A vast literature search has shown that academic middle managers’ behaviors and courses of action and also their strategic role in innovation processes in higher education contexts have not yet been examined. Therefore, this research in progress sets out to do exactly that.
A changing role

Over the years, the role and function of academic middle managers in Higher Education has been changing. Up to the 1990s, the role of heads of departments and academic middle managers was perceived as that of senior teachers / professors who also happened to engage in routine administrative processes, such as ordering stock and managing capitation budgets. Lately, however, external pressure forced academic middle managers to focus more on the quality of teaching and learning and one of their tasks became for instance to intervene when appropriate in order to encourage their colleagues to improve their work with students. This has led to the widespread recognition among academic middle managers that they also need to operate strategically. Today, therefore, academic middle managers’ influence does not origin in their hierarchical authority but rather in their unique knowledge base and in their ability to integrate strategic information with operating level information. The primary purpose of this research in progress is, therefore, to understand the way in which academic middle managers’ influence the strategic processes in universities. In order to achieve that, it will explore the strategic roles academic middle managers play when undertaking innovative projects and it will investigates the implications of such roles for strategies at universities.

The central question in this research is: Which roles fulfill an Academic Middle Manager at strategy forming and strategy implementation at Higher Education organizations? This central question will be answered by answering the following three sub questions: (1) Which roles do I find? (2) Do I have a explanation why I see what I see? And (3) What is the impact of their roles on strategy and innovation? As an example of the research in progress, I will give in this paper a quick view of one theory, namely the theory of Steven Floyd & Bill Wooldridge. I think this is a very interesting theory for a closer exploration in a Higher Educational setting. In this paper, firstly the in-between position of the academic middle manager will be discussed. Then the development of strategically involvement of academic middle managers will be discussed, whereupon I will explain the theory of Floyd & Wooldridge about the strategic roles of middle managers. The paper will end in a discussion.


The in-between position of the academic middle manager

The central thesis in this research holds that the roles that the middle manager performs in innovation processes greatly influence the success or failure of innovations. Or, put differently: when an innovation is successful, then the middle manager has been willing and able to bridge the gap between strategy and implementation. The middle manager fulfills an important role in the shaping process of the strategy. Often his role is directive even. At the same time the middle manager plays an important part in the implementation process at the work floor (Horton & Reid, 1991). Often, an important task of the middle manager is to translate abstract strategies into concrete actions. As a result, the middle manager gains an important advantage: he knows the entire innovation process really well, since he is in a position that he has access to both operational and strategic information (Floyd & Wooldridge, 1994). Administrators are mainly interested in the initiation process and the decision-making process; they leave the actual implementation processes to others. Professionals, in turn, are especially interested in the classroom situation and in their day-to-day practice’; they rather leave management tasks to others. Consequently, there is a gap between the management level and the educational level. The middle manager is the missing link between the two and is therefore an important factor in any education institution. Gamble (1988) speaks, in this respect, of the “Janus”-position, since the middle manager is both a faculty member and an administrator. Busher & Harris (1999) observe that the middle manager is in a 'bridging and brokering'-role, in which he translates the policy and perspectives of top management in departmental practices. As a result the middle manager has a double role, namely both in the organization-skilled area and in the educational area. This double role invests a certain degree of influence in him, but at the same time its makes him vulnerable and likely to experience resistance both from above and from below. As a result, the middle manager has to work in a complex force field with forces pulling him into opposite directions: the expectations of top management and of the work floor. The middle manager forms a link in a 'perpetual strategic process' between ' top-down'-thinking of the strategic plans of the governors and 'the managing upwards' movement of experiences, insights and solutions of the employees at the level of the work processes (Tyson, 1997). This complexity has two sides.
Two sided complexity

On the one hand part of the complexity of the function of the middle manager is inherent to his 'in-between' status, resulting in experiencing pressure from two different directions. You have, of course, the organizational objectives, pressure on results and the expectations of the middle manager’s immediate superior. However, you also have the requirements of the


primary process and the desires and expectations of an increasingly pluriform corps of professionals. The middle manager is left with the 'deus ex machina'-part; he is the one who is expected to find the universal remedy for all organizational questions. Middle managers have to handle the 'unfinished business' of both the higher management layers and of the staff departments. They have to deal with regularly recurring changes of strategy, with fast technological developments, with a continuously more heterogeneous student population (and the resulting diversity in majors and minors), with a variety of curricula; with increasing competition; and with ever-shorter life cycles of products and services. Each and every one of these matters requires the educational organization to adapt. It does not matter whether the direction of the adaptation is top-down or bottom-up, in all cases it passes the middle manager. Middle managers bridge the gap between the visionary ideas of the top and the frequently chaotic reality of the professional layer. They mediate between 'what should be' in the eyes of the highest control, and 'what is' in the perception of the professionals involved in the primary process. Therefore, the middle manager is expected to be able to make the strategic choices that have desired results for the organization. The second aspect that makes the function of the middle manager complex originates in the tension between on the one hand the personal wishes of the middle manager with respect to space, freedom, variety and possibilities to influence decisions and on the other hand the way systems, procedures and interdependencies in fact limit the actions and influence of the middle manager. Middle managers can experience this as a tension between impotence and space and freedom. Therefore, academic middle managers more and more want to have influence on universities strategy. This involvement with the strategy of the university has not always been.
Development of Strategically Involvement

Until the 80s, the educational strategy was fairly stable in most universities and university colleges in the Netherlands and other countries. The middle managers of that period can be described as ‘watchdogs’, who kept things on track. The issue of academic middle managers authority has been discussed in the literature (Kay, 1974; Nutt and Backolf, 1993), which supports that academic middle managers decision power is quite insufficient, uncertain as well as limited. This lack of delegation of authority from the upper to the middle level of the hierarchy makes academic middle managers concentrating to an old style of operation by translating plans into actions and controlling and monitoring activities. They positioned themselves as academics in administration/management roles and were therefore much more focused on their academic careers; the administrative part they seemed to perceive as temporary. Their focus was internal. Macro demographical, social, economical or global challenges were not discussed at all; they were concerned with curriculum planning; managing the work of a team or colleagues (Tucker, 1992; Bennett & Figuli, 1990; Gold, 1998; Gunter & Rutherford, 2000); monitoring; managing structures and processes (Blandford, 1997); evaluating teachers and programs of learning (Turner, 1996) and resolving problems that frontline managers could not handle. Educational managers were simultaneously leader, manager and administrator (Bush & West-Burnham, 1994); they kept things going, coped with breakdowns, and initiated new activities, and brought teams and activities together. More specifically, the key functions of educational management were to manage policy, learning, people and resources. In practice, educational managers 5

created, maintained and developed conditions, which enabled effective learning to take place (Blandford & Gibson, 2000).
Four models of reorientation

More recently scholars have realized that the department and therefore the middle managers’ position is changing (Lucas & Associates, 2000). The environment is no longer viewed as a static entity, nor is it an option anymore to ignore external changes and developments. The rapid changes in their environment (local, national and international) and the need to alter their strategies and to adopt new management practices, suggest the redefinition of academic middle management’s role within the university. In fact, since the early 90s four recognizable models of a reorientation have evolved. Instead of just an internally oriented focus, it is more likely that the academic middle manager focuses on the management of external relationships and the development of innovative arrangements with the internal partners. He becomes the kind of manager who opens up new horizons, who promotes integration, coordination and innovation across borders within, and between organizations. Secondly, because of the increasingly segmented external markets for universities, the academic middle manager has to find viable strategic alternatives and gain acceptance for them within the organization. With the shift from control to innovation, it is not surprising that the relevance of formal planning has also changed. So, in the third place, the middle management’s role in this regard is enhanced by the fact that they are positioned uniquely at the center of the universities internal social network and at the interface between the university and its external environment. Therefore, academic middle managers who possess strategic awareness play a key part in the interpretation of information, and in doing so influence the mindset of the universities. And fourthly, because of the potential for interpersonal conflict, middle managers must have an ability to gain cooperation among groups and individuals who rarely see eye to eye, and this is, as a result of an ever evolving technologically driven communication. He has to facilitate organizational learning, which means encouraging information sharing and sheltering experimental behavior. These four models of reorientation represent the move away from the traditional top-down, commandand-control model of organizations toward a more decentralized, ‘process-centered’ orientation where the real governing power emanates from the middle. This leads to a new vision of, and set of expectations for, academic middle managers: a vision that intimately links middle management contribution to the strategy of a university. This means that management is no longer seen as a part-time job that scholars can do next to their research and teaching duties. Instead it is considered as a full-time activity requiring special ways of acting.
Strategic involvement of middle managers

There is a significant body of research suggesting that middle managers make significant contributions to the strategy of firms or universities (Schilit, 1987a, 1987b; Floyd & Wooldridge, 1992; Earley, 1998; Fenton-O’Creevy, 2000; Payaud, 2003; Torset & Tixier, 2003). For instance, they are described as resource allocators (Bower, 1970); innovators (Kanter, 1983a; Burgelman, 1983a); participants in strategically discussions (Westley, 1990); implementers of changes (McConalogue, 1991) and new product developers (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). All of them agree with the idea that strategies do not develop


fully-fledged from the minds of top managers or others. Rather, strategies develop over time through successive iterations of decisions and actions. Strategies are adapted when new information comes available. The undertaken strategy is constantly assessed and tested against the requirements of the surroundings and is adapted if necessary. Quinn (1980) calls this incremental management, but I prefer to speak of emergent strategies (Mintzberg, 1994). Emergent strategies arise by the continuing interaction of the middle manager with many actors within and outside the university, as well as with top management and the professionals. Strategic acting is considered to be central instead of strategically thinking. This action does not emerge in the sterile surroundings of the policy plans and of the top management, but in the actions of the academic middle managers in the university and of the front line managers who operate on the work floor with students and professionals. These develop in their actions a direction from which the strategy gradually crystallizes. Strategy means taking action, experimenting, and learning from the results. This learning requires listening to the organization, and communication across levels and boundaries of the organization. I think that the actions of the academic middle manager are generated by his misconception about the strategy of the organization. These misconceptions frequently are the cause to change the organization or to develop a new strategy. However, this is not simple. Strategies remain abstractions, paper intentions that get insufficient expression in the behavior of employees. The message that the managers communicate in terms of aims, plans, structures, systems and such, does not correspond with reality. The written strategy does not correspond with the emergent strategy, the formal organization not with the informal, the mission statement not with what people actually pursue (De Man, 2004). From this point of view the goals of middle managers arise from his motives, determined by (1) his own importance and, (2) his perception of the organization, like for example indicated by Floyd & Wooldridge (1997). They propose that middle managers holding interface positions in the organization are more likely to exert greater levels of strategic influence because their formal role offers them greater opportunities for mediating between the organization’s external and internal environment. Externally, they must become adept at spotting the strategic significance of evolving educational, technical, political and social-economic trends. Internally, they must lead, facilitate and champion innovative strategic initiatives that fit an ever-changing context. They mediate between the organization, its customers (the students) and its suppliers. They develop a rich knowledge base that combines strategic awareness with operational experience. Through the dialogue with top management and work floor, they influence strategy in both ways. However, critical remarks are also made concerning the influence of middle managers on the strategy of the organization. Spreitzer & Quinn (1996) identify three important barriers for strategic involvement of middle managers: bureaucratic culture, structural conflicts and personal time restrictions. Within the bureaucratic culture middle managers are faced with the initiatives for innovations that are associated with top management, yet they also consider their immediate superiors sometimes as opportunists who seem to have no clear tie or commitment to a specific scheme of values. The one day quality is the highest good, the other day the costs. Structural conflicts tension occurs at three levels, namely between functions in an organization (this makes it difficult to adopt both venture perspective and innovation perspective), between colleagues (this makes it difficult to find support for the innovation of a change) and between employees (with the difficulty to tackle this problem).


According Spreitzer & Quinn, personal time restrictions are the result of the everexpanding agendas, sharper deadlines and higher targets, etc. that the middle manager gets confronted with. These three barriers are not the result of conscious sabotage, but are a natural consequence of the organizational process. Moreover the middle manager becomes strongly incited to conform himself to the dominating merits by everything in his surroundings: adjust yourself, don't ask for trouble, and choose for rest and salary. In short: adjust to the established work ethic. Not every middle manager will hide itself. Different styles of acting will emerge. The way in which middle managers influence the strategic process in the organization has been frequently described by Floyd en Wooldridge (1990, 1992a, 1994, 1996, 1997)2. They have described these roles for profit organizations, i.e. the corporate world. I will discuss their ideas in this paper, because universities are in someway similar in structure and culture to profit organizations. Secondly, it will be the first time that the ideas of Floyd & Wooldridge will be used in an educational context and I think that this will contribute to the evolution of educational sciences.
Strategic roles of middle managers

Floyd & Wooldridge (1997) point out that middle managers take part in two types of activities. The first consists of behavioral activities (upward and downward), which depend on which directions middle managers influence organizational members, and the second consists of cognitive abilities (integrative and divergent), which depend on how middle managers’ activities are congruent with the ‘official’ strategy. Floyd & Wooldridge propose four roles of middle management in the strategic process, based on their own research and on research of other researchers, such as Burgelman (1983, 1991). A key contribution of Burgelman’s work is its recognition of the impact of the organizational culture, of structure and of strategy in its promotion and focus on autonomous behavior. Burgelman suggests that as long as middle managers see opportunities that exceed the set of opportunities offered by the top management, autonomous strategic behavior will occur. Burgelman (1991) identifies “induced” and “autonomous” strategic behavior as critical points for the innovative process. Floyd & Wooldridge also recognized the importance of middle managers in enhancing and cultivating such autonomous behavior and formulated four roles: synthesizing, facilitating, championing and implementing. The middle management’s strategic roles have to do with change: understanding the need for change (synthesizing),
2 Although Floyd & Wooldridge described their theories with a business view, and speak of ‘firms’, I use the word universities
instead of where they used the word firms.


preparing for it (facilitating), stimulating it (championing), and ultimately, managing the process (implementing). In the next paragraphs I’ll discuss these roles separately.

Synthesizing is a process of giving synthesized information to top managers in order to allow for the best informed top decision. In this process middle managers are not conceived as the source of all information, but they can profit from their privileged position to develop an overall strategic picture. The internal information is processed and filtered by the middle managers, and as a result they absorb the uncertainties because they evaluate the risks. According to Schilit (1987a) middle managers filter information and evaluate choices before the decisions reach to top level. The change manager who synthesizes to his top manager is basically the same manager described by Bower (1970) as providing impetus to top managers to take needed risks. In this role, the middle manager gives a strategic interpretation to both operational and strategic information and he communicates this (subjective) information to others. The middle manager gives his opinion about certain information by his evaluation, recommendation and subjective interpretation of it. By labeling an event as a chance or a threat, this information will play its own role in the organization. This activity can be preceded starting up or selling a new project. By his interpretation the middle manager influences the perception of top management, and because of this also the formulation of the strategy (Floyd & Wooldridge, 1992, p. 154). The role of ‘organizational architect’ (Brown & Rutherford, 1998) is related to this aspect of role: the organizational architect creates new organic forms of departmental structure with serve to support and improve the work of the university. Nonaka (1988, p. 15) describes this strategic role of the middle manager as follows: “Middle management is in a key position; it is equipped with the ability to combine strategic macro (context-free) information and hands-on micro (contextspecific) information. In other words, middle management is in a position to forge the organizational link between deductive (top-down) and inductive (bottom-up) management.” Therefore the middle manager combines strategically with operational information and adds its own evaluation and interpretation to this process. This evaluation has been based on the experience that the middle manager – in particular, this is the case for the middle manager who operates on the fringes of the organization - gains by his unique position. He gathers both insight in the management strategy, and insight in the wishes of customers, the strategies of competitors and operational processes and technologies. He keeps his eyes open to the world outside, (new social developments, questions for renewal) as well as inside the organization (the teacher staff, demands for calm and stability)(Powell, 2001). In conclusion: Middle managers can play an important role in identifying how an issue is understood within the organization and how top management is likely to respond. They can identify an event as related to a particular function, or they can identify it as an issue affecting the whole organization. They are the ones who can determine it as more or less urgent. They can emphasize certain points of the issue over others. In describing an issue, middle managers can even propose a solution. Each of these models will influence the opinion of the staff and how others see the issue, and this in turn will affect related decisions.



Floyd & Wooldridge define the facilitating role as nurturing and developing for experimental programs and for organizational arrangements that increase the organizations flexibility, encourage organizational learning, and expand the universities’ repertoire of potential strategic responses. In other words, we can define facilitating as the process through which middle managers assist into the adoption and implementation of any kind of innovation by helping them pass through the organizational agenda. The middle manager has to create the potential situation for the organization to adopt initiatives. As Kanter (1986) argues the new entrepreneurial managers combine ideas with actions. They need, for example, to act as ‘teachers’ helping staff members to adapt the changes. Floyd & Wooldridge (1996) suggest five specific behaviors related to a good facilitator. Middle managers has to: • Encourage informal discussion and information sharing • Find time for new/experimental programs • Provide the appropriate resources for trial projects • Provide a ‘safe’ environment for the implementation of programs/projects • Relax regulations in order to create a flexible environment for new programs started. Facilitating is then defined as ‘the fostering of flexible organizational arrangements’ to locate and provide information for experimental projects. It is a trial and error process that expands the universities adaptability to new challenges. In addition, a learning model is stimulated. Facilitating serves to stimulate experimentation and risk-taking by subordinates. Change managers stimulate their managers to take risks, and subsequently reward them for long-term success. However, top managers who see planning as legislative can perceive facilitators as subversive. This is in particular the case when the results of risk taking turn out negative. The stimulation of risk taking is done by the free sharing of information and promotion of experimenting and by getting sufficient resources available for this (Floyd & Wooldridge, 1996, p. 84). The resources can range from the allocation of study time, so that someone can train himself in a new role, to the search for extra funds, resources, task hours or working space for professionals. Moreover, the facilitating role mainly exists of activities that are related to the promotion of cooperation, and the identification and reduction of blockades in the universities organization. It also includes improving the cooperation between training or departments, and also the adaptation of processes or the breakthrough of deadlocks Managers also are referred to as change agents. Because they mediate between the operational and top level, they facilitate change and they make sure that both levels are heading in the same direction. New initiatives and divergent ideas are stimulated, so that a healthy critical attitude arises with reference to the strategy. This reduces the chance of inertia in the organization. Because middle managers also implement the strategy, they are faced with a dilemma. Facilitation requires coordinating activities and stimulating taking risks. Implementation generates stability in the form of formal structures and systems. Because these two roles overflow into each other, the facilitating role of middle managers sometimes has been discerned with the difficulty of the implementing role (Burgelman, 1983). Top managers are generally cynical concerning the facilitating role of the middle management, because middle managers usually adopt a critical attitude to the current 10

strategy, and as a result seem to undermine this strategy. However, this critical attitude prevents the middle managers from considering the current strategy as the only right one to reach success, and therefore will continue to be open for new ideas (Floyd & Wooldridge, 1996, p. 84-85). Good middle managers can create 'knowledge', at the same time however, they remain open for other ideas and can adapt other ideas.

Championing refers to how middle managers promote strategic initiatives to their superiors and in doing so diversify the organization’s repertoire of capabilities (Floyd & Wooldridge, 1996). Championing is a form of upward influence that involves persuading top management to alter existing priorities – to invest in something that will shift or broaden the strategic focus. This requires a support base created and shared with others within the organization. Therefore, effective championing also involves influencing peers, subordinates, students and other (external) people who are involved. As pointed out in the introduction of this paragraph, Burgelman (1983) has defined this behavior as an autonomous strategic behavior, and it is contrasted with the behavior that would be expected on the basis of the applying (current) strategy. In his model there are two kinds of strategic activities, namely the induced strategic activity and the autonomous strategic activity. Burgelman suggests that middle managers who operate autonomously formulate broader strategies for areas of new business activity and will try to convince the top management to support them. To function as an effective catalyst of change, the middle manager must be very committed to the proposal he champions, and must become deeply involved in the development of it. As a result of his involvement, he is able to convincingly articulate the details and benefits of the proposal. If he succeeds with this championing, he will find himself placed at the heart of the universities’ regenerative process. Therefore, championing is at the core of the innovation process. In particular in an uncertain environment the middle manager will find himself at the heart of the process of change, because under these circumstances, organizations will rely more and more on this bottom-up approach to strategic change. There is a danger however, a manager who plays this role excessively can be perceived as a propagandist, and as a result loose his reputation and credibility. In spite of this, in the case of successful championing this risk taking does offer the opportunity to climb the hierarchical ladder. These types of managers are the socalled ‘intrapreneur’ managers as analyzed by Burgelman (1983a). They are managers who will risk their career in order to sell a good idea that accordingly can allow them to climb up in the organization. Eventually, it can even lead to an adaptation of the strategy of the organization. Schilit (1987a) has also described this kind of influence of middle managers. In his opinion middle managers exert upward influence regularly, particularly in decisions that have a low risk level, and especially during the implementation phase of an innovation process. To be considered as a good 'championer' middle managers must be closely involved with the operational activities, so that he has full knowledge of these activities and the skills that are used and required. Moreover he needs a good insight in the strategy of his institution to be able to evaluate and select projects that fit in with the priorities of the organization, and that connect with the requirements of the market. The important value of the middle manager is that he can bring together activities and people of different departments, and as a result overall solutions and projects can be developed (Floyd & Wooldridge, 1996, pp. 56-59). 11


Implementation is defined as the process through which decisions; policies and strategies are translated into plans and practical procedures within an organization. As Floyd & Wooldridge (1996) argue “implementation is commonly perceived as a mechanical process in which plans are dedicated and carried out from a master strategy conceived by top management” (pp. 44-45). Nevertheless, the two authors argue that in today’s business environment implementation is not just an administrative process but an intellectual one, which requires middle managers to know “the strategic rationale behind the plan …” (p. 45). In addition, several authors (Kanter, 1986; Carr, 1987) claim that in a restructured organization middle managers need to act less as administrators and more as leaders, planners and project leaders. In other words: middle managers need to have an organizational understanding of decisions and not simply to apply and control top management decisions. This traditional role can be seen as the organizational soldier - the doers who strictly give orders based on rules – but it is during the implementation that middle managers can really discover and acknowledge the difficulties and realities of the environment. Therefore, even within an apparently simple activity, the middle managers are searching for future possibilities. There are middle managers who are ‘doers’ who do more than just simple follow and execute orders. These “doers” are goal oriented people who use all their power and skills to implement and align the organizational plan. This role is frequently considered to be the most important strategic role of the middle management. In this role the academic middle manager advocates things happening. In this case the academic middle manager frequently uses the systems of the university and the department or the faculty, and also the sources that are connected with these. The effectiveness of the academic middle manager is frequently assessed on the basis of the realization of the innovation, and by the efficiency of the process with which it happens. Because of this, the role of the academic middle manager is very visible throughout the university. At the implementation level, academic middle managers translate the strategic vision of top management into operational activities and guide the change process that belongs to it. By changing their own behavior into accordance with the change process they set an example for their employees. At the same time, they also change the perception of the staff concerning the identity of the university. The hard part of the implementation is to get the university to react to the new priorities and act accordingly. The difference between the planned strategy and the executed plan is the ‘implementation gap’. The middle manager needs to be adept at managing two related contradictions. He must be both leader and follower. In being both a leader and a follower in the implementation process, the middle manager walks a fine line, seeking both constructive debate, and consensus. The implementer aspect of his role entails the carrying out of college policy, with a focus on the goal oriented and effective organization of the departmental activities. It is related to the concept of ‘governing the department’ (Smith, 2002), in that it draws upon the professional values and expertise of the manager, and applies them to the creation of local structures, which contribute to the effective outcome for the organization.


Discussion Synthesis in thinking concerning the strategic role of the middle manager

Although the four types of strategic middle manager are clearly distinguished from each other, these roles, at the same time, also have a clear relationship with each other. They reinforce and support each other. In other words: Playing one of these strategic roles does not exclude the potential of playing another role. I do believe that over time a favorable dynamic between strategic roles will establish itself, which allows academic middle managers to develop improvements of the strategy for themselves and for their organizations. In addition, there is a set of managerial skills that should lead to optimal performance in each strategic role. You can express it in a circle. They understand the need for change (synthesizing), they prepare for change (facilitating), they stimulate change (championing) and they manage change (implementing). An effective middle manager achieves a proper balance among the four roles and matches it with the universities’ strategic context. The degree to which middle managers play these strategic roles depends on, apart from personal character, the organizational context in which they act (mechanical and organic organizations). This context can influence the role achievement. Between the different roles a certain consistency exists. A middle manager that spends a lot of attention to all roles will be considered to be successful in many cases, because he is able to coordinate his actions within the situation of the context. However, I think that the middle manager takes on one dominant role in his actions. There might be attention to a second role in his operational dealings, but the other two roles will get little or no attention from him. In that case those roles must be taken on by frontline managers or by the top management. In other words: when all roles are played by the management levels (top -, middle or frontline management), this will lead to ongoing innovation processes. The other way around I expect that when the middle manager functions "badly" in a certain role (or gives insufficient interpretation to this), this will have its results on the total innovation process and this can lead to delays in, or even disturbance of the innovation process.
Joining the roles

Certainly, the correct manner to fulfill these strategic roles is not easy for the academic middle manager. Namely, the processes, in which the academic middle manager is expected to play certain roles, do not develop simultaneously. Each of the processes has its own development speed, and will be at different stages at different times. The role interactions of the academic middle manager with his role set members are complex. They often involve simultaneous interactions with different individuals or groups, as well as the effects of those interactions, single and in combination, and the influences of factors external to the role set, all of which may vary in time (Smith, 2003). For example: the academic middle


manager is faced simultaneous with the legally bound implementation of the BachelorMaster structure, the adaption of educational program as a result of the technological possibilities (ICT), and with the creation of an alliance or consortium within the framework of disciplinary cooperation, etc. All these processes have started at different moments in time and are at different stages of development. Therefore, the middle manager must be able to adjust rapidly and in a flexible way. However, having to balance their different managerial functions appears to create constructive tensions in the work of the middle manager.
Influence of variables

I expect that the contribution of the academic middle manager to the strategy of the organization will be influenced by variables such as a tight or loose structure; a formal or correctly informal culture, et cetera. I think those variables play a large role in the way the academic middle manager can fulfill its role. To give an example of this: I expect that an academic middle manager with a very restrictive autonomy only plays a small, not visible role at the strategy shaping of the organization. Possibly he will turn to a negative oriented facilitator as a result of frustration concerning its role. This way also other variables are to consider, which are of influence on the eventual strategic role of the academic middle manager. These variables make it possible to stipulate to what extent under- or overacting within the four roles in a certain role occur. Becoming a strategic middle manager means having to cope with a great deal of uncertainty and ambiguity. Without skills in communication (sending and receiving), entrepreneurship, negotiating (building trust and identity), coordinating (sharing information and encouraging processes) and controlling, middle managers will not be able to take on any of the roles in strategy, no matter how good their ideas may be. The academic middle manager has to deal with diverse variables. I distinguish two categories of variables: organizational and situational variables. Organizational variables are the context, the structure and culture. Situational variables are variables such as task autonomy, engagement and educational leadership. In what way these variables influences the strategic roles of the academic middle managers, is not yet clear and part of the research. Nevertheless, I do have some expectations based on bibliographic research about the way academic middle managers will act to have influence on universities strategy. For instance: I think that an academic middle manager will act more on downward activities in a stable context rather than in a turbulent context. In a turbulent context the academic middle manager sees the opportunity to get things done. In the under mentioned table these hypotheses are presented.
Predictors for strategic acting Context Organizational variables Structure Culture Engagement Situational variables Autonomy Educational leadership Downward Stable Fixed Conservative Indifferent Limited Transactional Upward Turbulent Loose Innovative Driven Independent Transformational

Within the framework of this paper it conducts too far to describe and define all variables 14

in an extended way. This will be done in the research report. Correctly because this paper concerns a research in process, it would be very interesting to come in contact with people who wants to think with concerning the influence of these variables on the strategic roles of academic middle managers. It would be interesting to discuss to what extent people expect which influence the distinguished variables have on the strategic roles of the academic middle managers. And I also like to discuss the question if and in what way these variables possibly predict the strategic acting of academic middle managers. Therefore, I am looking forward to invite you all in this discussion.

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