​I’m sure we’ve all had the experience at one time or another of seeing apparently sound decisions fall apart at the point of implementation, or otherwise proceed but result in unintended consequences. 

This can of course happen in connection with any type of decision, and staff-related decisions are certainly no exception. Indeed, training initiatives, recognition programs and performance review systems are classic examples of well-intended business improvement initiatives that can go awry. 

Of the many possible reasons for things going off track (poor project management or inadequate resourcing, for example), one of the most common concerns the role of middle managers/supervisors. Middle managers/supervisors can have a less than constructive impact on the implementation of initiatives where they negatively influence the way in which their staff perceive the initiative. What on the face of it appears to be a sound business improvement strategy may not have the desired effect (and indeed may have precisely the opposite effect!), where middle managers/supervisors are not adequately engaged in the initiative and are simply left to communicate or implement something they don’t understand and/or support. 

In these cases, there’s a critical gap in the chain that links the original decision, through implementation, to improved performance. The impact of middle managers/supervisors can be particularly pronounced in larger businesses and those operating in multiple locations, where staff are more remote from key decision-makers and so will often have stronger ties to and confidence in their immediate, local managers and supervisors. 

Before commencing any business improvement initiative it is therefore vital that you adequately communicate, if not directly involve, all managers/team leaders/supervisors in those decisions and initiatives which require them to play a role in communicating to and/or implementing with their teams. Only then will there be a chance of the initiative achieving the anticipated business improvement outcomes. 

Of course, clear communication needs to supplement other strategies designed to help you get the best from your team, including setting clear expectations, creating a culture of accountability and investing adequately in employee selection, development, support and ongoing engagement.