Middle managers ‘frustrated with innovation barriers’

Middle managers in local authorities want better support from ICT departments to help find ways to implement innovational change, according to a new report.

The report, produced on behalf of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), found that middle managers felt that politicians and senior managers could more to create the conditions for  achieving successful major innovations.

And they said that corporate services, such as human resources, ICT and procurement could actively help them to implement major innovations.

The report said; “In several councils, there was considerable frustration with the internal bureaucratic  hurdles managers faced when trying to implement innovations.

“Many also felt that more IT expertise and  support would enable them to make much  better use of new technology.”

The report was produced during 17 middle manager focus groups in seven councils in England.

It sought to discover the reasons that previous reports had discovered a big gap between the intentions of those at the top of councils and the experiences of staff on the frontline.

According to the study: “Many managers felt that those above them often tried to implement ill  thought through and unrealistic ideas.

“If those implementing the ideas for innovations are not convinced of their worth, and their viability, they are unlikely  to be successful.”

Managers also felt that politicians were often failing to ‘face up to realities’ and to ‘really accept what the financial situation means’.

Those interviewed emphasised the importance of senior managers maintaining their commitment to developing a major innovation until it works, rather than moving the goalposts or transferring their attention to the next projects.

The report said: “They wanted their councils to do less, and to ‘see projects through’, ‘allow time for  changes to consolidate’, and ‘finish what  we start’.

The focus groups found that middle managers fully appreciated the need for innovation and wanted to contribute to it better.

They wanted politicians and senior managers to actively engage them, and other staff, in ‘meaningful dialogues’ about future issues and potential innovation priorities.

There was also a desire expressed for politicians and senior managers to set a clear strategic direction, with agreed medium and long-term ambitions.

The report said: “Middle managers’ experiences of operational realities can help to test and develop senior managers’ and politicians’  ideas for innovations, to ensure that they  will work in practice.”

Colin Marrs

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