Must Mugabe cut roadside grass too?

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PAUCITY of a high calibre middle management poses a real threat to the Zimbabwean socio-political growth and economic transformation. This is the core and engine that drives up organisations from large companies to government departments. Zimbabwe is on the rostrum of a major economic launch and bankruptcy of middle management capacity is potentially the most urgent constraint to this take-off. For Zimbabwe that engine has been dismantled and its various components scattered around the globe, the right experienced middle management with the right market intelligence is out there somewhere in North London, in Middleton Stoney, in Ottawa, in Goring and Streatley, in Durban, in Wellington, in Florida, in Geneva, in Singapore City, unemployed somewhere there in Zimbabwe, in Sydney, in Weston-Supermare and I could go on.
I am not for one second stating that locally educated and experienced middle managers are less efficient but fact is they lack that exposure to the wider management practices and have little in the way of practical training and experience at an international level. The right middle managers with the right attributes locally are side-lined as nepotism and corrupt backhanded practices have rooted themselves into almost every fabric of our society. That international exposure to diverse and more current practices is just critical so call me names if you have to!
The only sure way towards enhanced organisational performance and efficacy is strategic involvement by middle management. That layer of eager-beaver supervisors who act as a buffer between senior management and the workers on the ground. It keeps any organisation ticking and moving forwards and is that lubricant in the middle. It sets the objectives on the ground, identifies responsibilities, risks and has the knowledge of how to manage and control processes. Middle management has the role of engaging workers, identifying the effects of failure and taking appropriate action. Left to their own devices, workers are not productive! This is common sense, this is stating the obvious some will say, but then if this is common sense and stating the obvious why are we still talking about it?
In Harare, when you drive from the city centre towards Braeside there is a railway crossing just before the Markro wholesalers. There is a traffic signal at the railway level crossing with a steady amber or red light. This level crossing signal is obscured and visibility is almost zero, well it is in fact zero. You cannot see it full-stop. As with everything in Zimbabwe at the moment, due to the effects of the nefarious sanctions imposed indiscriminately against Zimbabwe, it has been difficult to maintain things and that is a debate for another day so please bear with me.Advertisement

Now at this railway level crossing with the highly invisible amber rail crossing light, and this has been the case since the year 2000, we have on almost a daily basis, our beloved police officers camped out there stopping and fining the beautiful citizens of Zimbabwe at will. Camped there on a daily basis! And one of the officers who is there is one of their senior officers. The man in charge on the ground! The middle manager! The role of middle management is to identify risk and the effects of failure and take action. And not extract bribes out of the already poverty-burdened citizens of Zimbabwe!
My point is, this is a very dangerous level crossing and it is just a fatality waiting to happen or has already happened repeatedly and will happen again and again. The identified problem is the risk of harm to the public and the role of this middle manager is to drive up his own department, and appropriately report to senior management. Let us stop blaming senior management for failure to execute the responsibilities of middle management! It is a fact that strategy and execution are not mutually exclusive and without planning you cannot execute and strategy without execution is pointless. Instead of this senior officer or middle manager taking this extremely high risk issue to senior management, he is choosing to let the problem be for selfish, self-serving bribery-induced gratification.
What is the purpose of risk assessment? Again stating the obvious, you identify the potential for an accident or dangerous occurrence and you take practical steps to protect people from the risks that cause real harm and suffering. The signal light has been like that for a very long time and this middle manager is clearly aware of it and that is why he has stationed his officers there. Repeatedly fining hard pressed citizens $20 for going through an invisible traffic signal is just a practical example of dearth of middle management in Zimbabwe. The grass that is obscuring the light could be cut and the dust that has accumulated over the years could be cleaned. That is not going to cost $100! With an effective middle management that will definitely happen. The term is effective! The key is initiative!
An effective middle management relays orders, decisions and guidance downwards and most importantly they take problems, difficulties and suggestions upwards to their superiors. It is easy to blame President Mugabe for this mediocrity from the so-called middle management we have! The middle management deals with operations on the ground and they should be interpreting and explaining policies framed by top management and motivating workers on the ground to work towards organisational, departmental and national vision and goals.
You often hear some say Zanu PF is full of useless policies and blue prints! It is not the policies; it is not Zanu PF and not the blue-prints that is the problem. It is that missing link between middle management and the senior management. Do you expect President Mugabe to come to this railway level crossing at Braeside to cut the grass and dust down the signal light casing? We have to admit that we have a dearth of middle management in Zimbabwe. This example I have given is just the tip of the iceberg and every department you go to it is the same. I just love the passport office and so does everyone else who has been there recently! We have a non-existent or dysfunctional middle management.
Senior management set out the policies and blue-prints, the vision and direction for the organisation or department. The expectation is that this is delegated to middle management to promulgate down to the ground and the middle management must understand the jobs below them, what is expected of those jobs and how to appropriately report to top management. Zimbabwe is a country going through socio-political redefinition and this level of management is critical to this change process. Senior management has a responsibility to disseminate exactly what is expected of middle management and follow up is just as crucial.
Zimbabwe is on the threshold of a major economic boom and that is fact. So a failure of senior management and a lack of middle management will only hamper our socio-economic journey. Workers need to be managed; workers have to be managed and managed effectively that is.
I am a concerned citizen, only stating the obvious but then the obvious is not so obvious.