• Manager in the Middle: A View of Strategic Planning in Higher Education from the Middle Management Perspective

      Flanders, Kimberly Sharron; Tift College of Education
      Strategic planning is a process that can assist institutions in responding to and preparing for the myriad changes in higher education; however, a lack of communication and other challenges can hinder institutions’ ability to effectively engage in the process. Because middle managers serve as liaisons between organizational leadership and front-line staff, this transcendental phenomenological investigation sought to understand the experiences of middle managers in the strategic planning process through the lens of path-goal theory. Criterion and snowball sampling were used to identify twelve middle managers to participate in semi-structured, topical interviews. The data were analyzed utilizing the modified Van Kaam method of analysis of phenomenological data to develop a description of the phenomenon. Findings from this investigation indicated that middle managers experienced strategic planning as a top-down process implemented with a team approach and the goal of benefiting students and the institution. The participants shared that they would like to be included in strategic planning discussions early in the process to help shape institutional priorities and actions based on their experiences with students, parents, and other stakeholders. Additionally, the participants agreed that their teams should be included in the strategic planning process to garner more buy-in and to provide a robust breadth of knowledge and experience in the discussions. The middle managers in this study also noted that the attitude of the leadership and support from an institutional research, or similar, office impacted their experience with the strategic planning process. Strategic planning leaders can utilize the information gleaned from this study to more effectively engage middle managers in the process, such as by providing trainings and early involvement. Future research in this area should study middle managers working at different types of institutions and should include more faculty participants.