Middle managers’ roles and capabilities in times of technological change

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Management and International Business (MIB)
Technological changes are redefining the way organizations do business and they seem unavoidable for most – if not all – industries. However, its intricacies have not yet been fully understood by scientific research. Moreover, middle managers’ roles and capabilities in times of technological change have not received enough attention. Being key players of change, middle managers’ contributions often determine the success or failure of different change initiatives. The purpose of this qualitative study is to increase our understanding of this phenomenon by focusing on middle managers’ perceptions regarding their roles and capabilities in the context of technological change. In addition, the study bridges two streams of literature that have so far been developed separately, i.e. the literature on middle managers’ roles and the literature on managerial capabilities. The empirical data was collected by conducting twelve semi-structured interviews with middle managers from a variety of industries. By drawing on their perceptions, the objective was to gain insights on two main points: middle managers’ roles during technological change and the competencies and capabilities they perceive to use in order to fulfil each of such roles. The findings of this study indicate that several of the roles mentioned in the literature are performed by middle managers during times of technological change. The data suggests that middle managers are in a position that requires them to be simultaneously change receivers and change leaders. As change receivers, they (1) make sense of the technological change, (2) make sense of their role as change receivers and (3) manage their own resistance to change. In turn, as change leaders, they (1) implement the change, (2) help others through the change and (3) manage team members’ resistance to change. In addition, a variety of concrete competencies and skills were identified in the data as necessary capabilities for middle managers to effectively perform each of their roles. As such, the study contributes to existing research by drawing connections between the roles that middle managers enact during times of technological change, and the concrete competencies associated to each of their roles.
Thesis advisor
Kodeih, Farah
organizational change, middle managers, managerial capabilities, change management
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