Where strategic leadership engages in a strategy formulation process to create strategy, the resulting change is purely a matter of execution efficiency, in other words we must translate strategy to action. Therefore it is preferred that organisational change initiatives are part of a strategy development session, for the simple reason that such change will be fully authorised. But, where there are high flyers within the organisation who have great ideas, change management becomes a bit more difficult. The reason is quite straight forward. Change that is not directly authorised will not be executed immediately. Unfortunately, irrelevant of how good any idea is, it will need allocated resources such as money people and assets to manifest. Even where executive management authorises a junior task team to develop an implementation plan for change, such might (more often than not) never see the light.
It is unfortunate that many executive teams fail to milk junior employees for brilliant ideas since the front line who produces the bottom line often knows best what the solutions to complex executive problems are. Frontline employees and junior managers know since they operate where rubber meets road. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Oprah Winfrey are but a few examples of employees whose brilliance were overlooked by the companies who employed them. These same employees later became their former employer’s greatest competition.
So what does a young bright employee do to bring his or her great idea too life? Well, firstly, it is important to note that the primary difference between top-down and bottom-up change is that the former is a matter of execution efficiency and the latter a matter of influence. Reality is that most organisational change will take place from top-down since, at some point, change must become authorised and resources must be allocated. The implication of this is that where a junior employee wants to bring about change, he or she will first have to get such approved, which becomes a matter of influence.
Herewith Seven tips to those ‘not so authorised’ organisational rebels who wants to effect change…
1. Make sure that your desired change will enhance mission and vision. No senior manager will support an initiative that does not strengthen purpose or which does not assist in the execution of strategic intent. Ask the right questions to ensure that there is no strategic disconnect...
2. Learn to build a business case. Those in power are more interested in the probability and impact of results than they are in the technicalities of your ingenious thinking.
3. Hone up your negotiation skills. You will need this more than anything else. People of influence have mastered the art of hearing others say ‘YES’.
4. Practice your presentation skills. Your ideas needs to be heard and understood. Brilliance means nothing if no one knows about it.
5. Be a bold. You will not succeed if you live in fear of making career limiting statements. Realising change requires courageousness, confidence and taking of risk!
6. Get into project management. If approved, you will have to prove your ability to execute. The only way to ensure efficient and effective transformation (from idea to practical reality) is through applying proven and tested project management principles.
7. Build a competent army. You cannot do this alone. It takes one person to generate an idea, but it will take a team to execute.
You might succeed or fail; heaven forbid, you might event get fired! But, you will get stronger. The key is not to give up. Great rewards await those who can bring about change. In fact there is ample evidence that the highest paid employees in the world today are those who can see what needs to change and then effectively produces such…
In conclusion, make the decision and then make it happen… In my Strategic Leadership Master Class we thoroughly work with the art and science of change management…
© 27 April 2015
© 27 April 2015 Derek Hendrikz Consulting
Junior employees are at the forefront of the business processes and have great insight into what works and what does not, placing them in an ideal position to identify the gaps and come up with innovative solutions to improve the process.
Firstly, top management must realize the benefit of managing from the bottom up and want to enable this process. Secondly, it is important to enable frontline employees and junior managers to initiate change from the bottom up by providing project management skills to them to take their ideas to the next level. Top management can create a platform for creative thinking and communication of ideas by providing junior staff with the tools to form well rounded projects out of mere good ideas. From my experience, most junior managers lack project management skills as it does not form part of the vast majority of tertiary education curriculums. These skills will enable junior staff to take their ideas to the next level and present them in a way that executives see the benefit and can envision its success. Communication of great technical ideas can be enhanced by including means of measuring the direct and indirect impact, ideas on communication of the project and getting buy-in from staff, time scales for completion of the project and the resources required (people, budget).
Yes, “they operate where the rubber meet the road” and normally these are young and brilliant employee, these people should be encouraged and be involved in search for change, they are the face of an organization
Most organizations are operating with limited resources, so one’s quest for change must be assertive, bold and well presented. One should show readiness to take risks and both side consequences of the changes that is going to happen, the change influencer need to appreciate and recognize the executors for the change to be effective
I agree with Brendon Plaatjies that change is hard and for an organisational change effort to succeed, leaders must understand motivation this was illustrated in Derek article step number seven to build a competent army and this team should be highly motivated to execute change.
One of the most powerful statements that I have come across reads; “If frontline employees are the ones that add value to the product, then what is the purpose of management?”.
To elaborate, value is added by those that directly “touch” the product from start to finish.
It is then clear to me that management’s role is to then support the frontline employees execute their activities more effectively and efficiently and this can be very simply achieved by giving frontline employees a platform to voice their suggestions. Having said that, the culture of the business is core in driving the ability or the success of change from bottom up. If managers possess a mentality that this is how we used to do things in the past, bottom up change is almost impossible.
Having a good idea is the just the starting point. The frontline employee will purely have an idea – at the end of the day, any business decision is taken based on the nett result to the bottom line. It is here that organisations need to have proper mentor systems in place. The idea needs to be able to flow in a clear direction with all stakeholders involved in order to ensure that a well-rounded decision is made based on solid facts by all involved. To expose the frontline employees to senior management can be intimidating to them and hence middle management needs to step in at this point and do justice to the ideas.
An even if the idea has been accepted or not – recognition to the frontline is imperative. It builds confidence and further more promotes a culture of collective idea generation.
A very good review on change management. I think that the way change is initiated from the bottom up is normally not structured well enough. It is important to activate your entrepreneurial drive to initiate change from the bottom up. Whatever the change that is required, it is important to communicate a clear and structured path to achieve it and not only the idea. Companies wants solutions not just good ideas. Show the benefit, with clear directives on how it would work. Not just say for example: I think it will be good to change the meals in the canteen. State the current short comings with possibilities of how to rectify, cost and timelines, etc. This makes leaders sit up and take notice.
Agree completely with the seven tips, but dependent on the Leadership Style of a Team, these are often easier said than done, for the "average Joe". The person who is able to effectively succeed with tip 3 being: "...Hone up your negotiation skills. You will need this more than anything else. People of influence have mastered the art of hearing others say ‘YES’...", is the one, in my opinion, who does succeed, the majority of the time. This is something that doesn't come naturally to everyone, and those who need to build up courage to execute this skill, or those who need to practice this skill, often to not have the opportunity to do this, if the Leadership Style is not conducive to this behavior.
I believe that a corporation can to some extent manage a bottom-up change management system. I further believe that in most cases the strategy execution will be more effective because of higher by-inn and commitment to change.
Some platforms should exist or could be created in order to get ideas across to senior management. Examples might be a dedicated resource to chase innovation and improvement ideas on “grass root level”.
I guess it boils down the degree of openness to an inclusive approach to change from Senior management and policy makers in an organization, how effective their communication is internally and how effective the said communication regarding change is being absorbed by everyone.
Its important to learn and appreciate every individual in any organization and compliment them for their individual contributions to the company. Acknowledgement and recognition plays a crucial role in encouraging employees at the bottom to bring forward new ideas that will change in the organization. Communication channel has to be enhanced and supported so that it will bridge the gap between bottom and top personnel. Mentorship must be created to guide the future leadership of the organization. I find the seven tips in the article very insightful, encouraging and useful in bringing change in the organization
I fully agree with the points. In my opinion, a company needs to have a platform to motivate employees to bring innovative ideas. A system to acknowledge, filter and adopt change from bottom up is crucial. “Easier said than done”. The tips are helpful to effect change but one factor I consider as a limiting is the complexity of the company matrix. Some companies are too committed to their process and procedures. Sometimes it’s better to commit to process and procedures depending up on the relevance of the change or the idea. The most important thing to note is change is a must to survive and excel in this challenging business environment. The roles and responsibilities of the current leaders is to bring balance and adopt change at appropriate time.
Change has always been perceived by many as a negative thing. Why ? How will an organisation grow if there is no change ? How we convey / communicate an impending change is very important. As leaders we need to have an answer to every question that could be asked. we need to have their buy in into the change that will be happening. If we do not have the employees buy in it will a task on it's own to implement this new change. I am in agreement with the statement
''It is unfortunate that many executive teams fail to milk junior employees for brilliant ideas since the front line who produces the bottom line often knows best what the solutions to complex executive problems are''
Yes there are some brilliant ideas that can come from a junior employee that was never thought about if in discussion. But often management does not know this as the junior employee thinks that it will never be approved or they are scared to give their opinion on a subject. I think management teams need to be more open to the fresh ideas that junior employees may have and who knows if these ideas are implemented and can work in the organisation what a MORALE boost for that employee. This will open up doors to others that were at once afraid .
I agree that 1) top-down change is authorized and effected as a result from execution efficiency and 2) bottom-up change is a matter of influence. I would like to see the development of ideas to become a culture in established companies. I promote giving the "not so authorized" a "safe" environment to make suggestions and get the authority and tools to execute on those suggestions which can make an efficiency enhancement. I enjoyed your "7 Tips" - so much so that I would appreciate your permission to share this with my team. Managing change up or down vs. starting a change up or down are two very different concepts though.
Change management is highly important in any organization, because, to paraphrase the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “Change is the only constant.” It is also the only thing that allows a business to grow, to keep its competitive edge in a quickly shifting world, and to continue to deliver on its mission in the best way possible.
However, I also feel it is something that is often done poorly, and in such a situation both the company and employees suffer. It is my opinion that this is often the problem with top-down change; the decision makers are sometimes removed and out of touch with the situation ‘on the ground’ and therefore battle to managed and communicate in a manner that will successfully effect the change. As the article states, I think management teams therefore need to be more open to and supportive of junior employees who have brilliant ideas, since ‘the front line who produces the bottom line often knows best what the solutions to complex executive problems’ are.
Sustainable change (whether it's top down or bottom up) can only take place in an environment (culture) where it is encouraged and actively pursued. Leaders, managers and employees need to be allowed to fail and encouraged to question the status quo. There also has to be a culture of continuous improvement and striving for performance excellence. Strategic change will come from the top and is unlikely to ever happen bottom up. Operational changes can definitely can definitely be made from bottom up if the conditions above are satisfied. Recognition (not necessarily monetary) will go a long way to encouraging a culture of change.
Totally agree that bottom-up changes require a lot of influence in order access resources to implement the said change. Such resources do need top-down approval and involvement, therefore I believe that both elements are essential for implementation of effective and relevant changes to the organisation. The advantage of bottom-up involvement is that the necessary detail is available; this is sometimes lost at a higher level from those who may not have a direct day-to-day experience at the front-line. But also the bigger picture needs to be accounted for, where top-down influence and involvement comes into play. In summary, in order to see the changes we want in a business or an organisation, we have to be part of it and take an active approach to assisting from the very bottom to ensure the decision makers at the very top get a full and balanced overview of all elements of the potential impacts of the change
Most definitely I think this can be done, but as said by Hugo, the idea is the easier part, executing it and ensuring everyone else buys into the idea and sees the same vision is the real work. I also agree that decisions are most often made without understanding the operational aspects of it, without actually getting your hands dirty, and this often can lead to a failure of the execution of the change. The idea "one size fits all", does not always apply to the whole organisation, and therefore as the people on the ground one needs to be fully prepared, factual bold and confident.
I think that whilst we often see more top down change than bottom up change, successful organizations seek to foster a culture that encourages bottom up change. It however needs to be noted that because an organization encourages bottom up change doesn't mean that the idea will be automatically adopted or implemented. As the article clearly points out in the 7 tips to successfully effecting change.
Having a background in research and development where ideas have to compete for funding, I agree strongly with the first five points above for it is only after these have been satisfied might approval or funding be granted. Points 6 and 7 is then required in order to execute.
Yes - You can manage change from the bottom but it can only be effective if used in conjunction with the Bottom down approach.
Bottom up change involves the "team involvement" and hence a wide range of ideas will be forthcoming. This works very well when innovation is required.
A "thinking out the box on a strategy, for example to increase sales when the economy is sluggish (like now). Its a "thinking out the box" approach. How can we do thing s better than the competitor?
This will produce a wide basket of "out the box" ideas, which the manager would otherwise not have at his/ her disposal .
However in order for these to be ideas to be effective they need to be implemented as soon as possible.
Change Management needs to be authorised, costed, and people allocated, etc, before idea can be implemented and hence I am of the opinion that in order for a company to survive and continue to be innovative, there should be a good blend of both bottom and top change management.
all the 7 tips mentioned in the article are very good and will assist in effecting change.
Good leaders should ensure that everybody in the company strives toward the same Vision. In the previous article it was noted that in order to reach the Vision of a company change is needed to turn the current situation into the future Vision. Good leadership should not only know that employees need to drive that change but they should actively encourage it.
Similarly employees should not wait to be asked what they think or what changes they can contribute to better things. We need to accept it as part of our everyday work that we need to better things. This way we will see it as our responsibility to influence upwards in order to gain the support needed to change our organization closer to our Vision. Good leaders will always support an idea that takes the company closer to its Vision provided we have the staying power to implement and provide the results. Do not expect that you can pass on an idea to your superior and it will be implemented, you will have to take ownership and accountability of the idea if it is approved, so be ready for implementation. The idea is the easy part.
Sure you can manage change from the bottom. Remember that the Boss has not been at the top of the ladder for ever, so to get there, there must have been some influencing of change from further down the ladder earlier on. The managing of change from a lowly position does however necessitate getting the 'buy-in' of whoever is the current Boss. To the seven tips already mentioned in the article I add the additional pointers. Make sure you deliver, in quality performance, and on time. Indeed over deliver, and go beyond what has been requested. Be concise. Talk facts and not anecdotes (the anecdotes can be left for the social chatter afterwards, once you have succeeded). Avoid surprises, and always have an answer. And, finally beware of egos !!
Yes,bottom up change is difficult and I would say for the following reasons.It is human nature to be scared of change and rejection and that is when experience and time will help make it easier to get courage and boldness.To present a strong recommendation for change that will be a benefit to the company,you will need a strong team and through their support you will grow into having confidence and being a stronger leader.
The difficulty of changed being forced down from the top is that there will be resistance from the workers,and this mainly because of the fact that not all humans like change.Often the best ideas for change may come from the bottom,the workers that needs to put in the hours an effort.Being a junior or new comer to the management department there might be a sense of hesitation to bring forward these ideas to the more senior managers because of the possibility of rejection and a sense of failure.This I am sure will get easier as experience becomes more.Yes boldness will grow with experience.
These seven tips to effect change will most surely be helpful.
It is very difficult to implement a change from bottom up. What a make it difficult is that some senior personnel in the organization become reluctant to listen to junior staff and that discourage the fellow employees from coming out with new ideas.
Acknowledgement and recognition plays a vital role in encouraging employees at the bottom to bring forward new ideas that will change in the organization. Communication channel has to be enhanced and supported so that it will bridge the gap between bottom and top personnel. Mentorship must be created to guide the future leadership of the organization. I find the 7 tips in the article very useful in bringing change in the organization.
I actually believe that change should be a bit of both. Top-down and also bottom-up. Certain critical decisions and changes has to come from Top Management. There is a valid reason why they have been placed in the management position. When it comes to efficiency, operations, procedures I've found that it's the other way around in most cases. Yes everyone had to start at the bottom, but if you are not hands on you will not know what work and what doesn't. So asking and getting the other people involved to come up with suggestions / ideas on what needs to change is probably the best decision. The most important thing that I have learnt is not to just make a decision, implement the change and expect people to follow. If you spend that little bit of extra time, explaining the need / reason for change, why is needs to be done and what the bigger picture is - it sometimes open up the uncertainty and way of thinking. They need to understand in order to follow through.
Change means to "make or become different" . Thus, change unsettles the norm. While I agree that change that is not authorised will not be immediately executed, I see another bigger problem. People who are forced to adapt to change will naturally resist it. Leaders who make ALL decisions and except people to follow through create resistance to change. In my opinion, top down change should only be used where a crisis exists that requires immediate and fast resolution e.g. Cost cutting measures such as immediate ban on all travel that is not related to customer support that can be linked to growth.
However, where innovation is needed to grow sales, an all inclusive (and longer) bottom up approach is recommended, preferably accompanied by a strong leadership support statement (authorised). This approach seeks feedback from frontline employees, tasking them with taking ownership and contributing to the innovation. Hence, avoids the pitfalls of imposing change.
Naturally, all the 7 tips mentioned in the article are very handy for effecting change.
Organisations today need to create an environment where all employees be it senior, middle or junior management can generate new ideas/innovations and showcase their full potential. Change from the bottom - up can easily be achieved and is very possible once we as leaders set up an open culture where Ideas easily flow. As leaders we can critically assess these ideas whether or not they make business sense and if they are in line with overall organisational strategy. The 7 tips described above are indeed very useful to anyone who wants to effect change.
I believe it all lies in how effective you can communicate. As we all know for effective communication you have to make show your audience gets the message clearly. If you lack the skills to communicate then your ideas will not make the impact you want. Developing effective communication skills directly increases your self confidence. I believe all Organizations should invest in the communication skills of their staff so they will also gain by getting clear feedback about suggestions to move the organisation forward.
Its very difficult to make your mark in a company governed by very strict policies and procedures, that doesn’t allow the breeding of open minded thinkers, and therefore the struggle to implement a great idea fades away. Change management is for all levels in the organisation and like the author rightly points out, the employees at the face of the business have a better understanding of the business than executives at higher levels. “Frontline employees and junior managers know since they operate where rubber meets road”.
Fully agree with article, even if authorised it does not imply implemented. Yes I also agree with Loretta that good leaders will find it easier to implement, but even this can at times be challenging and an emotional exercise. You always have those whom are set in their ways.
All I wanted to suggest is that companies should now move away from a management concept into a leadership concept. Leaders always find it easier to introduce change and always create a good environment for the employees to understand the importance of change. They understand that respect is earned and encourage their subordinates to be more creative in their areas of responsibility as opposed to being told what to do and how to implement tasks daily. This element alone create a conducive environment to bring about change much easier. A good leader produces good employees and a good environment to operate within. Any leader shouldn’t find it difficult to implement change either way.
I agree, there is no change if people don’t recognise that a change is needed and if they are not willing to change their mind-set. Leaders must initiate and authorize change management and they must push their ideas by taking of risks.
Agree in that change from the bottom up is very difficult.
You are absolutely right in that it takes courage and boldness to press your idea forward.