The Middle Logo 200x200 The Middle is a podcast series exploring the challenges of improving middle management since that is widely acknowledged as having the biggest impact on organisational performance.

Each podcast will feature an interview with a prominent executive from a wide range of contexts including public, private and charitable sectors.

The host is associate professor Stephen Willson from Birmingham City University Business School.


Justin King on addressing decline

Justin King CBE was the chief executive of Sainsbury's plc, the UK's second largest grocery chain. He joined the organisation and engineered the corporate turnaround from 14 years of losing market share to 9 successive years of profit growth.

He joins Stephen Willson to explore the issues underlying the decline and how they were addressed. This included changing from being centrally led to empowering the front line on the basis that the only place that customers are served is in the stores. This required fundamental changes in the top management line-up but illuminatingly no more than normal turnover in the 1,000 or so in the middle management ranks. 


Tony Taylor on working on two fronts

Tony Taylor is the managing director of Gibbs and Dandy, a unit of Saint-Gobain, the French multi-national building materials organisation. 

He joins Stephen Willson to explore the issues of working on two fronts in a distribution business. The first being making multiple small internal operational improvements to prove their worth to their parent organisation. Secondly to access resources and manage boundaries with parallel distribution businesses and internal material manufacturing units.


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Asha Devi on building collaborative office spaces

Asha Devi is associate director at Ove Arup, the company most famous for being the architect of the Sydney Opera House. She joins Stephen Willson to explore the issues of designing customers' office space for collaboration and the satisfaction of multiple stakeholders in a changing world. 

This has particular significance in enabling middle managers to work effectively across their organisations. The same spotlight is then shone on the design of Arup's own offices in professional services.


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Gavin Card on aligning supply with demand

Gavin Card is the Director of Global Operational Excellence at SHV Energy, the parent company of Calor in the UK. He joins Stephen Willson to explore the middle management challenges of aligning supply with demand that is regional and weather dependant. The topics include improving UK-wide performance by abandoning regional P & L accountability and refining KPI's for operational improvement. Gavin draws powerful parallels with his previous experience within GE and the Royal Air Force.


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Jason Smith on career progression

Jason Smith is the Managing Director of Artex, a leading distributor of construction products. He joins Stephen Willson to explore the development challenges faced by middle managers in different phases of their career progression.


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Nigel Riglar on Covid Challenges

Nigel Riglar is the Director of Environment & Community Services at South Gloucestershire Council. He joins Stephen Willson to explore the challenges for middle management precipitated by the Covid crisis. These include the shift of facilitating local communities rather than cities and the dynamics of work when many staff are only in the office infrequently.


All episodes

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Simon Longbottom on introducing a new tier

Simon Longbottom is the Chief Executive of the Stonegate Pub Company. He was Voted Business Leader of the Year in the 2019 Publican awards.  He joins host Stephen Willson to explore the challenges of keeping a small company dynamic while introducing a whole new layer of middle management as a result of rapid growth.


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Mani Dhesi on managing in a federation of GP’s

Mani Dhesi is the Transformation Director of SDSmyhealthcare. He joins host Stephen Willson to explore the challenges of achieving end-to-end performance in a network including hospitals, community care and a federation of GP’s offices.


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Anna Slocombe

Anna Slocombe has worked in senior HR roles in Russia and in the UK. Her experience includes time in Mars, the privately-owned confectioner and Saint-Gobain the French multinational. She joins host Stephen Willson to explore the individual and organisational challenges of developing middle managers.


David Thompson 120x150 David Thompson on police management

David Thompson is the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police Force. He joins host Stephen Willson to explore re-organising middle management in the face of budget cuts and a broadening range of threats to include childhood slavery and cybercrime.


Steve Allen 120x150 Steve Allen on developing a local office

Steve Allen is a partner heading the Birmingham office of Mills & Reeve, a leading UK law firm. He joins host Stephen Willson to explore the challenges of developing a local office and managing teams of lawyers with regional specialisations.


Sarah Murphy Profile Picture 120x150 Sarah Murphy on managing in a charitable organisation

Sarah is an associate director at Rethink, a mental health charity. She joins host Stephen Willson to address the unique middle management challenges in commissioned charity work.  In addition we encounter familiar themes from previous episodes set in the private sector. 


Philip Plowden The Middle Podcast 120x150Philip Plowden on managing in an academic context

Professor Philip Plowden is Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham City University. He joins host Stephen Willson to explore the differences between managing professional staff and academics while maintaining a focus on organisational efficiency.


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Carl Arntzen on business transformation

Carl Arntzen is the Chief Executive of Bosch Thermotechnology Limited. He joins host Stephen Willson to explore the organisational challenges of managing the transition from risk averse gas boiler manufacturer to integrated home automation provider.


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Sue Unerman on modern challenges in advertising

Sue is the chief transformation officer at Mediacom, the UK's largest planning and buying agency. She joins host Stephen Willson to address the unique middle management challenges in the advertising industry. Here a strong collaborative culture pervades a matrix structure to meet customer needs amid changing tastes in emergent channels.


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Paul Anderson on managing in a global context

Paul Anderson is a Managing Director of Deutsche Bank. He joins host Stephen Willson and explores the challenges of managing teams to achieve the best overall outcome in a highly complex distributed global context.


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Ananda Roy on leadership in the middle

Ananda Roy has been a senior strategy, data analytics and insights director and has over 20 years of commercial and operational responsibility. He joins host Stephen Willson to explore how organisations in a number of sectors are encouraging and supporting middle management leadership across their organisations.


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Deborah Cadman on galvanising local business growth

Deborah Cadman is the chief executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority. She joins Stephen Willson to explore developing regional growth through the devolution of centralised government powers and the inter-working of numerous local councils and related bodies.


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Saleh Saeed on working with disasters

Saleh Saeed OBE is the chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee. He joins Stephen Willson to explore how member charitable organisations prepare to be able to make a coordinated response when international disasters arise.


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Frank Bandura on adding value

Frank Bandura was the chief financial officer for casual dining chain Carluccio's. He joins Stephen Willson to explore the ways in which the finance director can add value to their organisation through close co-ordination with the operations director.


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Ruth Cooke on dealing with diverse priorities

Ruth Cooke is the chief executive of housing association GreenSquare Group. She joins Stephen Willson to explore the middle management challenges of working with a wide range of customers and stakeholders with diverse priorities.


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Nick Walkley on balancing public sector objectives with private sector development

Nick Walkley is the Chief Executive Officer of Homes England, the government's housing accelerator. He joins Stephen Willson to explore the challenges of configuring middle management to achieve public sector and political objectives through private sector developers.

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Anthony Tattum on changing to meet customer needs quickly

Anthony Tattum is the Chief Executive of Big Cat creative agency. He joins Stephen Willson and discusses how Big Cat works with organisations to align their customer-facing and delivery-focused middle management tiers in an environment where customer needs are changing rapidly.