A human touch : Examining the roles of middle managers for innovation in contractors
Paper in proceedings, 2017
Innovation in construction is becoming increasingly important. Many studies on construction innovation focus either on the project level or on top management. In doing so, the in between group of midlevel managers risks to be neglected. If studied, middle managers are often narrowly defined to fit the mechanistic implementation of top management ideas. This does injustice to the importance of middle managers and the variety of their roles in innovation. In this paper, we address the different roles that middle managers may adopt in relation to innovation. A literature review and a case study were conducted at a regional housing division of a large Swedish contractor. In 10 semi-structured interviews and a vision seminar the middle managers were asked to voice their perceptions about innovation in the division and about their own role. Systematisation of working practices, employee development, and health, safety and sustainability measures were perceived to be the most important innovations. Four different roles of the middle manager have been examined: implementer of change, networker, sensemaker and enabler. Most middle managers identified with different mixtures of these ideal types. On this background, we discuss how middle managers may advance these roles to contribute to innovation in housing construction.