The Harvard Business Review has just published a very interesting article on change management. In it they argue that both a bottom-up and a top-down approach to change management are key to the success of developing organizations. We totally agree.
A decision from the top is usually what begins a company’s decision to change its processes; but as HBR note, in order to achieve a smooth transition through the change phase and ensure the most beneficial goal at the end, all parties should be involved, not just the senior team. This is where a bottom-up approach becomes invaluable.
A bottom-up approach to change management allows for the emergence of creative process streamlining whilst encouraging reflective inputs on the state of those processes which are current.
The latter is not only motivational: empowering the workforce to be agents of change, but it also enables senior management to have a direct insight into the company’s processes through the eyes of those doing the groundwork. What better way to improve processes than to have them reviewed openly by the people that carry those processes out day to day?
Also, in order to facilitate honest and constructive input to the company’s value proposition during the change, sensible senior management will provide motivational and nurturing positions for their key employees during the change process. By providing valuable emotional and social support for future leaders, this will encourage their most valuable employees to flourish during a vital phase of the company’s development.
All of these points are excellent in theory, but it is the use of operational optimization systems that elevates HBR’s advice from the theoretical to a practical reality. Such systems allow for clarity of communication amongst all those who work together, regardless of hierarchy. By combining top-down and bottom-up approaches they synchronize change activity, harmonize effort, dissolve job barriers and enable each team to understand their particular role in achieving organizational goals. Thus operational optimization systems facilitate the best of both change approaches and cultivate a symbiotic culture across the whole organization.
The bottom-up part of the integrated development and change process requires potential leaders throughout the organization to engage in a process of learning how to enact a desired change in an organization’s culture in the everyday experiences of organizational life.