Floyd and Wooldridge have developed a widely used model regarding the middle managers’ contribution to strategic change, in which four strategic roles for middle managers are considered: championing, synthesizing, facilitating and implementing. Although there is an extensive body of knowledge about the roles and influence of middle managers in implementing strategy, insight in which roles are activated in continuous improvement (CI) initiatives is underdeveloped and highly dispersed. Therefore, in this study we seek to understand which middle management roles (i.e. championing, synthesizing, facilitating, implementing) contribute to accomplishing CI. To explore which of these roles are activated when middle managers are confronted with a CI initiative, we developed a scenario experiment. Our findings indicate that the implementing and synthesizing roles appear to be of key importance in the context of CI initiatives, while the facilitating and championing roles appear to be less relevant.