Bottom-Up Improvement: Finding Strength in Numbers

Bottom-Up Improvement: Finding Strength in Numbers

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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Bottom-Up Improvement: Finding Strength in Numbers

There is power in “bottom-up” employee improvement, but it doesn’t get widely or easily embraced by organizations, meaning missed opportunities for improvement.  

That was the topic Mark Graban, our vice president of Improvement & Innovation Services and founder of, discussed during a recent KaiNexus webinar, Strength in Numbers: Improving from the Bottom-up, hosted by KaiNexus CEO and co-founder Dr. Greg Jacobson.

In today's post, we'll take a look at the high points of that webinar.


The “Top” to “Bottom” Pyramid

The “bottom” of bottom-up references the typical pyramid illustration used to visualize the management structure of an organization. That pyramid usually places the CEOs and executives at the top point of the pyramid, which then gets wider through the many management levels before the base layer of frontline staff at the bottom. Mark explained that to combat the hierarchical, and potentially insulting, placement of staff at the bottom of the pyramid, some organizations try to invert the diagram so that frontline staff, and sometimes even customers, are labeled at the top.

“We can draw whatever number of shapes we like,” Graban said. “If the organization just changes the drawing but doesn’t change the mindset, then that’s going to get people discouraged, that’s not going to lead to a culture of continuous improvement.”

Top-down improvement falls in line with command and control leadership, Graban explained. Command and control leadership holds the notion that executives are the smartest employees in the organization and therefore they make the decisions, and if employees would just do what they were told to do, then the organization would have superior results.

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By: Kade Jansson
Posted: August 18, 2017, 12:06 pm

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