" 'In the United States, middle managers are designated as cancer. The Japanese see middle managers as key to facilitating the process of organizational knowledge creation. They serve as the strategic knot that binds top management with front-line managers. They are a bridge between the visionary ideals of the top and the often chaotic realities of business confronted by front-line workers. They are the true 'knowledge engineers' of the knowledge-creating company...Middle managers try to solve contradictions between what top management hopes to create and what actually exists. In other words, top management's role is to create a grand theory, while middle management tries to create a mid-range theory that it can test empirically within the company with the help of front-line employees. The middle-up-down model is not an either-or approach; it is an interactive process of both top-down and bottom-up.'"
—From "Conversation with Ikujiro Nonaka," by C. Otto Scharmer, Reflections: The SoL Journal, Winter 2000