This Summer Look at Change From the Top Down

Change is perhaps the only thing that remains constant in the world and there is no better time to implement it than during summer.

Individuals experience change and so do organizations.

With advancement in technology, only businesses that embrace change are in a position to gain competitive advantage over counterparts. People have always resisted change which means that effective ways of bringing change to organizations are critical to successful change management. Generally, organizations may choose to rely on the top-down or bottom-up approach to ensure effective change management. Apparently, the choice between the two depends upon the advantages that the individual organizations aim to benefit from. Below, the two approaches have been taken into account with more attention being focused towards top-down approach.

Costco employs a version of both. “Costco’s circular vision help them reinvent a new retail distribution channel that focused on delivering value to its members through continuous innovation.”

Top down approach versus bottom-up approach

Companies are often faced with the dilemma of choosing between the two approaches when it comes to driving change initiatives. This is especially the case with companies that expanding in size where employees as well as sales and revenues are increasingly dramatic. This kind of growth only means that the scope of top management control is more and thus it becomes difficult for them to drive change on their own. So, which is the most appropriate approach of driving change successfully in the organizations?

1. During critical situations

Decisions made within organizations usually differ in a number of ways such as urgency. Do you consider the present situation urgent or rather critical? Then what you need is an immediate and fast solution to the crisis and top down approaches offer exactly this. During such situations, after the plan has been defined by the top management, there is really no turning back and the solution has to be implemented immediately. In this regard, the management is usually in need of quick results and the workers might feel like helpless recipients of the present crisis. In this regard, when the objectives are high and time is short top -down approach is obviously the most suitable approach for change management.

ISC the fan management arm of NASCAR looks from the top down: “Take change management seriously. Gain board-level support and involve the full spectrum of department representatives to gather requirements.”

2. Prevention of irrelevant details

Sometimes, decision making processes can be extremely time consuming especially where the decision making unit is unnecessarily big. In such situations, it is so easy for the company to be overwhelmed by irrelevant details which are in most instances so typical of the bottom-down approach. The problem can be worsened if time is a decisive factor in the present change management. In this regard, the most suitable way to implement change in the organization is the top-down approach.

3. When innovation is highly important

Generally, there are changes within the organization where innovation plays the key role. It is important to engage the workers of the organization actively. Essentially, innovation is participative in nature and dependent on a wide range of ideas which demands participation of every member of the company. In this regard, bringing together the ideas of the company leadership and the workers results in a collective decision making. Consequently, an atmosphere of innovation is bred within the organization making it extremely easy for the change to be implemented.

Gartner Analysts take it one step further: ”If the delivery of the change process does not include a clear understanding of the implementation mechanism, a communications plan, a marketing effort, incentives for change and a project focus, then the effort is likely to fail.

It is evident that change management can be handled solely using the top-down approach. With top-down approach, the top management is in full control, it is easy to measure and it is also cost effective. Nevertheless, where innovation is essential, bottom-down approach passes as the most suitable.

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Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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