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What is BottomUp Management?

BottomUp Management, according to John Miller of SUPERB Industries, Inc., properly implemented turns the traditional organization model upside down. It challenges the way management traditionally interacts with employees.

BottomUp Management: This core value is perhaps the most radical departure from the traditional model. We have taken the traditional corporate organizational chart and turned it upside down, because we believe it graphically illustrates what "responsible leadership" is about - carrying responsibility. It takes "upper management" out of its ivory tower and places it at the foundation of the organization.

BottomUp Management calls for leadership by empowerment by "supporting" team members "up" the line, instead of dictating results by coercion and manipulation. BottomUp Management provides a supportive environment where individual innovation and cross-functional teamwork can flourish while at the same time provide the leadership that a team based environment sometimes lacks.

Fundamentally it is about support as opposed to power and coercion. Practically it is about a perspective transformation - individually and organizationally.

Bottom-Up Management challenges fundamental notions about the role of a manager. It turns popular ideas about role and privilege on its head -- which is exactly what it is designed to do. In the traditional hierarchical format, management positions are sought for power, privilege, and prestige. Position comes with the capacity to wield authority over underlings and is rewarded with economic benefits of higher pay scales and benefits that make a more prestigious lifestyle possible.

The young and ambitious manager motivated by power, privilege, and prestige is able to accomplish a great deal on the road to his achievements. Whether or not he attains to these coveted positions of power depends on the degree of success he is able to produce on his way there. Promotion positions of power are nearly always linked to past accomplishments or future expectations. Hence, the organization is able to achieve defined goals by linking them to the ambitious goals of a manager on his way up. As these goals are achieved the manager is rewarded with more pay, power, and the accompanying perception of prestige.

BottomUp Management™ does not challenge whether or not the role of the traditional manager work. That this model works is not the question. It is a tried and proven method that is able to achieve organizational success. The question is not whether it works but rather whether it is the most effective model to meet the competitive challenges of the new millennium. Organizations will face increasing demands in the areas of quality, productivity, and responsiveness to changing market demands.

The power model of leadership with all its perks has one major drawback, that of alienation. As the young and ambitious manager achieves his goals one by one there is a huge risk that he will also systematically alienate himself from the very people he ends up being responsible for. Those individuals closest to the process and the problems and potentially most able to find solutions -- unless they are a rare brand of human beings -- will have developed a certain resentment for the success of the "manager" who is now living a privileged life. In their view he is reaping the benefits of what they worked and sweated for: more pay, more benefits, new office, new cars, and other privileges that add to the arrogance of an already heady ambition. Will the people in this manager's group give their best in this environment? Conventional wisdom tells us that they will not. Hence, we have a problem.

That is the challenge facing business as we enter the new millennium. Pressures will continue to increase to utilize every ounce of an organization's resources - the most important of which is the creative capacity of human capital. We need a business management model that can most effectively harness these resources and mobilize them to create a truly dynamic organization that can respond to the demands of the new millennium. BottomUp Management™ provides that model.

Perspective Transformation

As mentioned earlier the BottomUp Organizational Chart is a powerful communication tool to shape organizational perspective - how an organization views itself and most importantly its human capital. The BottomUp Chart changes how the organization and the people within it view themselves and their colleagues.

Initial reactions are typically: "Wow, that is interesting. I never thought of it that way before. That changes the whole ball game!" Indeed it does! But it also harnesses tremendous energy that can propel the organization forward to greater achievement.

The reaction described in the preceding paragraph could be viewed as a paradigm shift to borrow a term from old millennium management terminology. BottomUp Management™ is a paradigm shift, a big one. Perhaps, some would consider it a radical one because it turns the organizational hierarchy upside down. But it is more than that. It is an organizational model that enables an organization to harness energy and innovation that is not utilized in the traditional corporate structure.

While the reaction to the chart could be called a paradigm shift or at least it could eventually cause one to come about, the term that more accurately describes the process or change that ensues after first seeing the organizational chart turned upside down to the actual implementation is perspective transformation. Perspective transformation not only describes the initial reaction but also the process of progressive change that must take place if an organization is to adopt BottomUp Management™ principles.

The question may be asked: Can a perspective be transformed? Is it not rather changed or shifted? Certainly, BottomUp Management™ is a change or shift in perspective - a radical one by some estimations. In fact, it could be said that BottomUp Management™ at its fundamental level is a change in perspective, but it is usually not a sudden one as the word change or shift would imply.

Hence, perspective transformation more accurately describes what happens to an organization as it begins to embrace BottomUp Management™ principles.

Perspective transformation implies time and process. It allows for a continuum from a totally "Top Down" chart to a bottom up chart. In fact, most organizations as well as individuals are somewhere on that continuum. Very few organizations today work exclusively to the top down power model of management.

The continuum from "Top Down" to "BottomUp" is circular. We are talking about turning the chart upside down hence it must be rotated. As we turn the chart we will find that it rotates on the axis of middle management. This is significant because the largest transformation of perspective will take place at the top and bottom of the organization. Middle management will feel less momentum and will be most inclined to identify with or understand the value of BottomUp Management™.

This should not be surprising, since middle managers have often found themselves playing the dubious role of a monkey in the middle. In top down organizations they are expected to carry out the often less than practical edicts of upper management while being rendered powerless to accomplish anything when trying to facilitate supposedly self guiding, self energizing teams that can get bogged down in detail if not properly directed.

Middle managers have a better grasp of what really works in the organization and are more practical. They know morale of the troops that are often in need of support but are torn by demands from the top and the needs of the people actually doing the work.

So as the leadership and the members of the organization begin the process of perspective transformation the organizational chart will begin to tilt - rotating around the axis of middle management - the top begins to rotate down and the bottom begins to move up. The perspective at the top and bottom begins to change - organizational perspective transformation has begun.

The perspective at both the top and the bottom begins to change - that is why it is a transformation. It does not all happen at the same time.

An example of a BottomUp Management™ activity that represents a small tilt in the organizational chart might be that "upper management" decides to solicit suggestions for improvements from the bottom. As incredible as it may seem the most effective and practical ideas for improvement come from where the action really lies - out in the trenches where there is engagement with the product produced or customers served.

An incredible thing happens as soon as the organizational chart begins to tilt. Top management is actually able to look down and "see" the ordinary worker. The tilt in the organizational chart provides a perspective that was previously not visible because it is hard to see something when it is directly underneath you. As the organizational chart begins to tilt the perspective changes and the transformation has begun.

Of course, we are not suggesting that upper management does not know what is going on down there. In fact, upper management probably has some rather accurate data about the number of people that are down there as well as their qualifications and what they do or do no produce.

However, that does not mean that they can "see" their subordinates. Seeing involves a lot more. It means to value not only that which they produce but also what they know. And most importantly, "seeing" involves the belief that these individuals have worthwhile knowledge that can be used for organizational improvement and ultimately transformation. The latter is very important. If the implementations of a suggestion system does not include the genuine belief that the workers in the trenches can make worthwhile suggestions than a suggestion system will not only not work, it will backfire, because if suggestions made are not acted upon or acknowledged it will most certainly fail.

But let us consider where we are at the continuum. Let's assume that upper management just gained new insight from the BottomUp Management™ Organizational Chart and has made a commitment to transformed its perspective. What happens at the bottom?

Well it depends. It depends on how credible the workers in the trenches believe this new effort is. What happens at the bottom can range from ridicule to indifference, from interest to excitement. At the very least an outlet has been created and the seed of individual empowerment planted - to borrow a concept from old millennium management speak.

The idea of soliciting suggestions is not new. Many companies have successfully implemented and use these systems effectively. If your company has already implemented this simply show where you are on the BottomUp Management™ Continuum. In fact, many companies have implemented what we called Upper Quadrant BottomUp Management™ Principles - such as suggestion boxes, team building, and cross functional teamwork to name a few. These principles are all healthy, but if we are going to rise to meet the competitive challenges of the new millennium we need to go beyond that. Our only hope to maintain our competitiveness and thus our lifestyle is to continue spirited innovation. Then and only then is there hope for survival in heavy industry.

We must harness every ounce of energy and resources in the organization in order to continue to innovate. Innovation is the only edge we have against the low cost workforce masses in the developing countries. Technology does not innovate - people do. BottomUp Management™ is the business management model that can stimulate sustained innovation as we move into the new millennium.

But let's follow the process of perspective transformation as the organization continues to move from the "top down" model to becoming a BottomUp Management™ organization.

The company solicited suggestions and begins receiving them. At first there are just a few as people test the system to see if it is for real. Along with the suggestions come a few barbs and gripes. But "upper management" is serious about making changes and acts on them. The beauty of soliciting solutions from the "bottom" is the simplicity with...

Under construction.

Organizational Chart

Coming soon...


New Millennium Management Resources
390 4th Street SW
Sugarcreek, OH 44681
Phone: 330-852-1018
Email: info@bottomupmanagement.com


Copyright & Intellectual Property Declaration

The material and ideas presented herein on BottomUp Management are the intellectual property of John Miller residing at 390 4th Street SW, Sugarcreek, OH 44681. The ideas, graphics, and text are protected by trademark and copyright laws and may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without the prior written consent of John Miller.