Role of Middle Management and Motivation


Management is a process or function that co-ordinates the activities and operations within an organisation, with the aim of producing a saleable product safely and at a more cost effective rate than similar organisations targeting the same market.

The main aim of an organisation is to produce a saleable product with the aim of making a profit. To achieve this objective it is imperative that the activities or operations necessary to produce the required product in terms of safety, quality and cost are conducted in a controlled and goal orientated manner. Hence, management is the critical factor in an organisation that optimises the utilisation of men, machines, money, materials and minutes to ultimately maximise profit. Effective management in a successful organisation will result in the communities within which they operate to prosper, as it will be a vehicle for job creation should the company expand and a general uplifting of the standard of living.


• Qualifications – Formal and Informal
In the new South Africa and the introduction of the National Qualifications Framework, the experience and tested expertise of a person will be taken into account, should he possess no formal qualification. To this end, depending on the nature of the work to be done, the level of formal/informal qualifications required may vary considerably. However, it is essential that the right man is selected for the job, thus a proven minimum requirement of his technical knowledge of the field would be critical in the eyes of management.

• Basic management skills and principles
Management place a high premium on the prospective supervisors ability to the planning and organising of the work, leading and controlling a team performing the work and evaluating the performance of that work relative to specific objectives. This characteristic is important as the potential supervisor displays his cognisance of the overall objectives of the organisation and acknowledges his input in the overall success thereof.

• Interpersonal skills
Management in most industries have come to realise that their most important asset is in fact the people constituting an organisation. When selecting a supervisor, management focuses heavily on the individuals’ ability to relate and communicate effectively with both sub-ordinates and management alike, as this is the level at which most interactions between the general workforce and management occurs.

• Safety record
Identifying with the fact that people are the organisations most important asset and that the mining industry is stringently regulated, management deem a supervisors ability to achieve the required objectives safely of paramount importance. Management also realises that poor safety performance in any team of the organisation is a demotivating factor that could detrimentally affect the performance of the organisation as a whole.

• Problem solving abilities
For the organisation to operate effectively, management requires supervisors to operate independently by solving problems in their area of responsibility, timeously and correctly.


• Planning and organising the job
Ensure the daily production statistics from the three production units are captured correctly by the data-capturing clerk. Project the production performance to month end. Meet with the technical manager and production overseers daily to discuss the operation and the performance relative to the targets of the month.
Monthly perform the physical planning of the operation for three months and present to the organisation’s management team.

• Achieving results through motivation
Maintain a high level of motivation in the section is relevant to my line of work in that the operation I am employed at has only three years before closure and future job security creates uncertainty in workers. In addition, the organisation is one of six similar organisations under a single parent organisation and delivers the same outputs as them, yet they have a minimum of five people performing the same work as my section, where only two people are employed.

Furthermore, the gradual downsizing of the operation due to closure in three years allows little in the form of opportunities for promotion in the foreseeable future. Thus, motivating the workers in the section is an ongoing issue to promote on a daily basis.

• Review previous planning
On a monthly basis it is required to survey the actual production effort in the field and compare these results with the expected results of the previous planning meeting. This review meeting is held with management so that problems with regards geological models, machine efficiencies and previous planning can be identified and a workable alternative to the plan is found, so that the organisations goal can still be achieved or surpassed.

• Safety communication
Meetings are conducted daily, before work commences, to communicate incidents or accidents and the primary causes, which had occurred in other areas of the organisation, or entire mining industry. These meetings ensure that effective controls can be put in place to prevent such injury in my section, if such control does not already exist.

• Training of sub-ordinates
To remain abreast of technology and to ensure the best technology is employed in my work situation requires constant on-the-job training of my sub-ordinates. This training intervention allows me to identify inefficiencies in the section and invites worker participation in perfecting the system.


• Technical / Operational skills – (45% of day)
? Safety meeting and daily task distribution – 0.5 hours.
? Analysis of previous days production performance before production meeting – 1 hour.
? Production meeting with mine overseers and Technical Manager – 1 hour.
? Field visit – 1 hour
? Make alterations to plan based on above outcomes – 1 hour.

• Management skills – (55% of day)
? Attend operations meeting with Technical manager – 1 hour.
? Resolve issues raised by individuals in section – 2 hours.
? Review / analyse section cost reports – 0.5 hours.
? Strategic mine planning session 2 hours.

This is the most effective situation under current conditions. This statement is substantiated by the fact that my section has produced sustained above average results over a prolonged period and by and large each member knows what is expected of him. This allows myself the chance to apply my skills, in conjunction with senior management, to exploit other potential opportunities of strategic value, which may prevent closure within the next three years.


? I have the direct control over two individuals and the accuracy of their efforts is audited on a daily basis by management. The daily statistics are distributed to ten management level employees who are acutely aware of their unit’s performance and relate inaccuracies on reports without hesitation, on a daily basis.

? The performance in the production field is compared on a monthly basis with tabled plans and forecasts I present (i.e. does the actual linear advance of particular machines correlate with planning at the previous planning meeting).

? I am furthermore measured on a monthly basis as to whether my section has operated within the financial budget constraints as determined at the start of the financial year.

? The safety performance of my section is measured against objectives set for the section at the start of the financial year.


The individual whom I identified for this exercise will remain anonymous.


• He was always an outspoken and cheerful person, who had become sullen and prone to mood swings.
• He had become progressively more withdrawn, displaying a ‘don’t care’ attitude.
• Of late he had begun to make excuses to have time off from work or to leave work early.
• He did only what was expected of him, whereas he was an individual who would search for additional work in the past.
• Without any additional work responsibilities, it began to appear as if he could no longer get the work done in time.
• The normal impeccable presentation of his work had deteriorated.
• He elicited suggestions that he should possibly seek alternative employment.


• How I determined what the problem was.
When the employee started withdrawing and became exceedingly moody, I approached him directly, bearing in mind that we had always prided our section as having open channels of communication. The employee receded into a state of anger and did not invite further dialogue towards resolving the problem, which he perceived to be a figment of my imagination. He further commented that if I was unable to find fault with his work, that I should leave him alone. I subsequently enquired as to why his work was not of the normal high standard and that the work all appeared to be rushed. The employee asked if his efforts were not good enough, if he does not mean anything to the organisation and what future was there for him in the organisation. This is how I determined the root cause of the employee’s lack of motivation.

• What instrument(s) / actions I used to determine this.
I used situational leadership as a management tool to resolve the issue. I made use of the Developmental Task Analysis 11 to determine which specific style would be required to effectively manage the efforts of this employee.

By identifying the employee’s high development level and obvious future aspirations, I realised that I would have to adopt a highly supportive management style to resolve the issue effectively.

• What instrument I used to determine what motivates this individual.
I relied on effective interpersonal communication skills as an instrument to ascertain what motivates this employee.

• Management interventions I determined to address the problem and why.

? Providing opportunities to make presentations
As an immediate intervention to prove to the employee that his contribution is valued and that the due recognition and criticisms becomes him, I made him responsible for presenting the planning schedules and review comparisons to the management team on a monthly basis. The presentations are however scrutinised in the section by all relevant role players.

? Job enrichment
This intervention was added to his existing tasks to enhance the employee’s understanding of long term strategic planning and the implications poor planning could have over an extended period.

? Special assignments
The organisation’s aspiration to become a benchmark company in the mining industry world-wide has caused a host of specific operations to be closely monitored. On an annual basis certain information / data collected over the period of a year is required to be submitted for comparison with other benchmark companies statistics. This task involves a serious learning curve, which is bound to broaden the individual’s technical knowledge.

? Job rotation
I instituted a program whereby employees in the technical department relieve mine overseers in the field when they are on leave. The aim of this intervention was to afford both parties the exposure in different environments and hence develop a mutual respect for each other’s work and abilities.

? Career path development
A career development path was designed with the employee by utilising the services of professional consultants. The advantage of a professional external opinion is that the results depicted are free of bias and highlight the potential ability and also the weaknesses of the employee.

? Understudy training
The intervention of understudy training was a direct development undertaken from job rotation except the aim was to hone the skills of the problematic employee in his current field of expertise.

• What interventions were successful and why.

? Providing opportunities to make presentations
This has been highly successful in that this intervention provided management with an additional control that ensures the organisation gets the planning right the first time.

? Job enrichment
The effects of this intervention were dramatically successful in that the total methodology of operation has been changed, not with the purpose of extending the life of the organisation but operating at a lower cost in the last few years before closure.

• Interventions with limited success.

? Job rotation
This intervention was successful from the point of the technical employee (the employee whose problem we were resolving) as he was able to quickly adapt to the production operation. The production mine overseer however did not possess the level of computer literacy to perform the most basic of planning functions. This practice was subsequently aborted and alternatives for this method of training are currently under investigation.

? Career path development
The career development path that was formulated was in itself a success, but the employee was still not convinced of his possible advancement in the organisation since, according to his perception, less accomplished members of his peers in other mining houses were far ahead of him in the promotional route.

? Special assignments
This intervention has been relatively unsuccessful in that no feedback has been given to the organisation or individual and the exercise does not cater for physical differences in the methodology and operation at different mines. The employee has felt that this exercise was time consuming with no real benefit to the organisation as such.

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