In our world of management, and in terms of understanding how we mobilize people at scale, we are always behind the times when compared with many other areas of social and policy change in the macro-social world.
Let’s take the case of ‘the bottom up language’. It has been welcomed relatively warmly into organizational development and HR circles as a way to modernise antique-type practices in a world of management which has been practically built for decades on the premises of top down communication systems from the top.
In this tired and discredited environment (it wouldn’t be discredited if it worked) ‘bottom up’ brings some sort of millennial-like freshness, a cultural Botox to show professional and functional youth.
But, as happens most of the time in our organizational life, language takes over but substance does not necessarily follow. In many organizations, ‘bottom up’ means carry on doing the same as before but at the bottom. So, the 50 workshops at leadership layers are now 100 workshops on the manufacturing floor.
In fact, bottom up doesn’t work without an up, without a top . The trick is how to synchronise the Push and Pull, the top down and the bottom up, not just to provide excursions to the South, change geography and expect that miracles will happen.
Many years ago, researches in the US, in the area of policy change, came up with an interesting finding. When it came to the assessment of the efficacy of grassroots movements in policy change, they found that size of the grassroots, the money in the grassroots, and almost any other parameter at that level, was not a good predictor of success. However, when grassroots movements were associated with some people in (political or lobbying) leadership, committed and providing resources, and able to exercise power and support, a staggering number of those ‘tandems’, 78%, were successful in achieving policy change. It seems that the lobbyists and top leaders themselves, by themselves, with no grassroots, were not terribly effective. Equally, the grassroots without the lobbyists didn’t do much, but the combination was dynamite.
The translation for us is clear. Play change with both, the top and the bottom, but don’t be naive about the power of the latter per se.
In recent years, many people in organizational life have agreed, one way or another, that top down systems don’t work effectively. We’re about to fall into the same level of blindness and think that ‘bottom up’ per se will do the trick.
All of this may not be incredibly new, but I worry about the ability of organizational life and HR systems, drinking in scientism waters, to grab the music and play the band without understanding that, although it may be great fun, it’s just new noise at a different place in the organization chart.
What will management look like post Covid-19?
Join me for TODAY’S webinar where I’ll debunk – The Myths of Management – old management myths that just do not fit with our new world order. Register Now! and join me today at 18:00 BST/19:00 CET.
With my colleague Anett Helling – we will examine leadership traits, empowerment, employee engagement and more. Old traditional management thinking will be unsuitable to win in the post Covid-19 scenario. So, what will the ‘new management’ look like? Which elephants do we need to see in the management room?
TODAY – Thursday, 30th July – 18:00 BST/19:00 CET.
Bring your critical thinking brain switched on. It’s a serious business. It may also be fun!
All attendees eligible for a FREE copy of my new book: The Flipping Point – Deprogramming Management