Bottom up management might feel like a trendy new concept when it comes to leadership, but it really works. Here’s our handy guide to why you should, and how you can incorporate bottom up management principles into your own business.
What is bottom up management?
When we try to imagine an organisation in its simplest form, we’re used to thinking about it working in one particular way: management set tasks, and employees complete them.
Bottom up management argues that this is actually neither the simplest, nor the most effective way to run your business. Although top down, or “autocratic” management might feel like it is offering a singular, clear vision, it can quickly and easily be undermined by weak leadership, and create a slow, arduous process for implementing any change or innovation.
Instead, bottom up management invites team members at every level to participate in every step of the management process. In this model, Employees set their own goals and objectives, and contribute their insight to both the long term vision and every day running of the entire company.
Examples of bottom up management
The bottom up management approach has been used by companies around the world, across all sectors, to address a wide variety of challenges.
Famously Nobuyuki Idei, the former President of Sony, charged his engineers to become “Digital Dream Kids”. Rather than defining their company mission solely by their output, this motto charged all employees at Sony to think for themselves, and imagine the future they wanted to create, rather than simply following instructions.
Nobuyuki Idei, former president of Sony
” I want Sony’s engineers to become the Digital Dream Kids, and I, myself, want to be a Digital Dream Kid. It is my assignment to encourage the continued development of many exciting products, which will enable us to keep our brand power high. “
Companies that tend to naturally follow a bottom up management model include newspapers and consulting firms, such as The New York Times or Ernst & Young. Here, business relies on employees taking responsibility for finding stories, or bringing in new business, while management focuses on strategic alignment and implementation.
The benefits of bottom up management
Bottom up management has many clear benefits, which may include:
- Encouraging collaboration
- Boosting morale
- Generating insights
- Empowering your team
- Identifying hidden talents in employees
- Streamlining your processes
However, the main benefit of bottom up management is its ability to facilitate innovation. If your business has to be flexible, adaptive and innovative to succeed, then you need to be listening to your employees. Not only they are your greatest innovation resource, but their quality of experience and satisfaction will directly have impact on your overall success.
All innovation begins with a robust Idea Management Process (read our ‘101 Guide’ to what this means here). The early stages of this process focus on gathering ideas from your team, which will form the basis of your innovation strategy. If you are asking your team to contribute ideas, you are already – by definition – implementing a bottom up management approach.
Without innovation, all businesses will eventually fail, and without ideas, innovation isn’t possible. Carefully implementing and encouraging a bottom up management – whether it forms the basis of your entire strategy, or a component of a holistic management ethos – will always create positive change in your company.
The disadvantages of bottom up management
There are a couple of pitfalls and pressure points to look out for as you implement a bottom up management strategy.
Without careful planning and process management, some decision making channels may become overwhelmed by group-think, disagreement, or simply disinterest. This then becomes the true role of management: to plan, refine and review whether the decision making structures are serving the end result, and, if not, to change them accordingly.
It’s also worth understanding that in a highly competitive environment, this type of shift may be seen as an opportunity for individuals to assert themselves above and beyond their colleagues. While you want to encourage contribution, you must make it clear that team members are rewarded, above everything else, for collaboration and mutual advancement. Take a look at your salary, bonus and promotion structures, to make sure you’re not sending out counterproductive messages.
Implementing a bottom up management structure
A good first step in introducing the principles of bottom up management to your business is to consider introducing an Idea Management Tool. As the first step of an Idea Management Process, this is the best way to begin to create a company culture that puts innovation at the forefront of everything you do.
For advice or guidance as you explore your options, come and speak to the experts at Idea Drop. We’ve helped hundreds of companies across sectors transform their management structure to better serve their business needs.