Connecting Middle Managers


A recent post on the actKM Discussion List reminded me of of an initiative we implemented whilst working for a global engineering firm.

In one particular regional office, the Regional Director had recently been appointed and wanted to connect with each of the 30 odd managers based in the office. He organised what he called ‘Fireside Chats’ with three Managers at a time for him to listen to the responsibilities they had and the challenges they faced and to communicate his ideas and the direction he wanted to take the business.

After this series of meetings we sat down and reflected on a priority to better connect different parts of the business, to improve collaboration and cross sell/up sell opportunities. There had been several occasions where some parts of the business had sub-contracted work out to other firms without realising we had the capability and capacity in house.

We talked through a couple of different ideas and settled on continuing similar conversations. This was designed to get ‘random’ groups of four Managers together for a coffee. I say ‘random’ because what we did was try to rotate people through so that by the end of five months each of them had met all the other Managers (carry the three….I forget the math).

There were a few prompts for conversation:

  • Introduce yourself and provide a bit of background.
  • What does your area do?
  • What are your people working on?
  • What are the biggest challenges you are facing right now?

This kind of activity stimulated the network and we received some great feedback from people saying:

  • they were now more aware of the breadth of capability we had
  • they had discovered opportunities to help others
  • they had developed partnerships and new service offerings by bundling together diverse capabilities (e.g. Town Planners, Occupational Hygienists and Acoustic Engineers)
  • and probably most importantly that they had continued to meet with their peers on their own.

Probably the most important consideration is designing something that will fit the culture and environment of your organisation.

By the way: Did anyone notice that no databases, intranets, blogs, wikis, tweets, document management systems and enterprise search capabilities were harmed in the delivery of this program?

What have you seen work?

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