Original Research

The strategising roles of public sector middle managers

Junitha Surju, Nadine de Metz, Annemarie Davis
Acta Commercii | Vol 20, No 1 | a804 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v20i1.804 | © 2020 Junitha Surju, Nadine de Metz, Annemarie Davis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 June 2019 | Published: 04 May 2020

About the author(s)

Junitha Surju, Department of Business Management, College of Economics and Management Sciences (CEMS), University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Nadine de Metz, Department of Business Management, College of Economics and Management Sciences (CEMS), University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Annemarie Davis, Department of Business Management, College of Economics and Management Sciences (CEMS), University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: Whilst research on middle managers has increased considerably, research on the role of middle managers in the public sector context remains a rich context for exploring strategising.

Research purpose: The purpose of this research was to explore the strategising roles of middle managers in the public sector through the strategy-as-practice perspective.

Motivation for the study: The article responds to calls for research using the strategy-as-practice perspective to explore the role of middle managers in the public sector.

Research design, approach and method: The research adopted a qualitative exploratory case study design. The data was gathered using semi-structured interviews conducted with 14 middle managers at a selected government department.

Main findings: The research findings confirm that the strategising roles of middle managers in the public sector comprise of three key roles: sense-making and sense-giving role, the implementation role and monitoring and evaluation role. Within the public sector context, strategies are mostly deliberate and driven from national plans. When middle managers `receive’ these strategies, they make sense of it and then communicate the strategy to their subordinates through their own interpretations involving both horizontal and vertical communication channels.

Practical/managerial implications: The findings confirm benefits for involving middle managers in the crafting of high-level strategy in government departments which may lead to them owning the strategy and implementation thereof.

Contribution/value-add: The research adds value by confirming the middle managers’ strategising roles within the chosen government department and identifying how changes to their roles can enhance strategising.


Keywords

public sector; government department; strategy-as-practice; strategising roles; middle manager

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