The Bottom-Up Approach

Before trying to carve out a share of the market or manage a large project, it is recommended to have a well-defined management style. Unquestionably, a supportive manager pushes his employees to push their limits and to give their best. He trusts them, gives them confidence, motivates them, values them and recognizes the value of their work.

When employees are appreciated and valued, they are more productive and engaged in their work and in the company. On the other hand, a harmful management will have terrible repercussions on the performance, the motivation and the state of mind of the team members. This could even be harmful to the working atmosphere. Bottom-Up and Top-Down approaches are among the most popular and successful approaches.

When choosing a management style, several factors must be taken into account. For example, the culture of the company, the personality of the managers, the attitude of the employees, the environment of the company and the type of project management tools used are all factors to consider in order to make a judicious choice.

The choice of a management style is a matter of paramount importance. To this end, it must be done with care. This is a decision that will impact all aspects of your business, your project and your team. In this guide, we will take a look at the Bottom-Up approach.

What is the Bottom-Up approach?

The term Bottom-Up literally means “from bottom to top”. Also called bottom-up or horizontal approach, a Bottom-Up approach is an approach in which ideas and initiatives come from the grassroots level, where the management plays the role of a transmission belt between the different stakeholders. The Bottom-Up management approach is participative and collaborative. In such an approach, employees have a say. They are in fact asked to be a force of proposal and initiative. All employees at various levels contribute to decision making. The same applies to the definition of the company’s objectives.

The implementation of such a management style requires a great deal of trust on the part of managers and a great deal of involvement on the part of employees. This practice is aimed at empowering employees. Although still in the minority at the moment, Bottom-Up management is increasingly expanding, especially in start-ups and project-oriented teams.

The Bottom-Up approach is a managerial practice that appeals more to entrepreneurs and executives. This type of management is based on a corporate culture that is diametrically opposed to the most common “top-down” management practices.

The Bottom-Up approach is becoming more and more popular because it is undoubtedly has many advantages. What are they?

What are the benefits of a bottom-up management approach?

As you may have guessed, the Bottom-Up approach has a lot of advantages. We have listed the most powerful ones for you.

Strengthened cooperation

According to Statista in 2019 , 30% of French employees are not satisfied with their relationship with their direct supervisor. A Bottom-Up approach lends itself well to improving the quality of employee collaboration and collaborative strategies. In such an approach, all stakeholders are involved and actively participate in the decision-making process. Everyone has a say in how things are done.

By opting for the Bottom-Up approach, communication is two-way and employees feel able to share new ideas with their supervisors.

With a wide variety of collaboration tools in place to foster collaboration, adapting to a bottom-up approach can be a fluid process with a strong impact on the company or team.

The horizontal approach has a knack for making people feel closely involved and committed to the company they work for.

Higher levels of employee motivation

A study conducted in 2021 revealed that 91% of resignations were due to inadequate pay. The reality is that very few of those who leave their jobs actually end up winning their case for a higher salary at their next company. This implies that salary is not the real issue when employees leave. Instead, employees want to feel valued.

As recommended by the horizontal approach, having more responsibilities and opportunities and contributing to the achievement of goals keeps all employees in the company motivated and increases their level of engagement carried out to achieve the desired results

Same level of information

If your supervisors are in the habit of constantly giving you tasks and never discussing them with you, you will never be on the same line as them. Indeed, in such cases, the results will never fully meet all the expectations of your boss. This is because they have not discussed the project with you at length to ensure that you understand it or that you are able to provide relevant input or constructive criticism. In fact, statistics suggest that only 21% of French employees are in agreement with their company’s mission, and the missions they perform give them a sense of accomplishment.

A bottom-up approach is perfectly suited to change the game. Having projects and ideas decided collaboratively allows employees to feel like they are on the same page and aligned with the company’s strategy. By doing so, the expectations of their supervisors will be more easily met.

They are given the opportunity to move forward and perform their tasks with the confidence that their work brings value to their team and their company.

Quicker innovation

Innovation rarely comes from the ideas of one person. Very often, it is through discussion, sharing of ideas, and execution of ideas.

When employees are empowered to make decisions through a bottom-up approach, internal change and innovation can happen faster than ever. This allows your company to meet the requirements of its field of activity. Rather than waiting for top management to come up with new ideas, employees will feel involved in the innovation process and actively contribute to the continuous improvement of products, services, and procedures.

Increased mutual trust between staff at every level

A bottom-up approach requires senior management to realize that its employees are endowed with unique knowledge and should be given the opportunity to leverage it.

As employees realize that their bosses value and trust their decision-making abilities, trust levels will likely increase tenfold.


As soon as employers create a close relationship and employees realize that their supervisors are just like them, they will trust them more. Once trust is developed, ideas can be quickly shared between senior management and lower-level employees. In addition, comments can be provided honestly and freely, without any fear of judgment.

Profit from the knowledge of all employees of the company

Another important advantage of a Bottom-Up approach in a company is that there is no dependence on one person for knowledge. There are various sources of knowledge. Unlike some management systems in which a single day off for one person can lead to dysfunction in the company, the Bottom-Up approach encourages multi-skilling in teams and mutual support.

The Bottom-Up approach does not only have its strengths. It also has negative aspects.

What are the downsides of a bottom-up management approach?

The fact that top-down management has advantages is now an open secret. Everyone knows who decides and it is everyone who decides. We know in real-time if everything is in order and many other things. However, as might be expected, some aspects of the bottom-up approach to business management have significant drawbacks.

First, in the horizontal approach, the decision-making process is longer. Decisions take longer to be made and executed. It’s not just the managers or the CEO who will make decisions and then inform the various members of their team. In the Bottom-Up approach, more people are involved and, naturally, the process will take longer.

On the other hand, if the top boss does not have a clear idea of what the project entails or what the company’s objectives are, but still has the last word after the various proposals of his or her collaborators, the whole project may go in the wrong direction. In fact, the bottom-up approach is such that those at the bottom of the hierarchy have less say in decision-making. However, the boss at the top has the ability to look to employees for advice, information, and ideas for good decision-making.

On the other hand, it is important to note that just because a company wants to try a Bottom-Up approach, it does not mean that it has to eliminate its hierarchy or flout it. In fact, there is no need to replace the hierarchy, it can remain similar. What needs to change is the approach to decision-making.

In addition, in the absence of a strong vision and commitment from management, the influence of middle managers on teams other than their own, but whose involvement is essential to ensure the success of the transformation, may be too small. This situation, which is very common in practice, increases to some extent the risk of failure of the process of transformation of the company necessary for the effective and concrete implementation of decentralized governance.

Moreover, the lack of a global and complete vision shared within the company is an obstacle to the various transformative actions in the field. They struggle to fit into a common framework. This greatly increases the likelihood of inconsistency in approach and limits the chances of achieving the company’s objectives.

Finally, leaving the responsibility for initiating major projects or making critical decisions to field teams or lower-level employees can result in losing sight of the expected impacts of implementing data governance. In fact, in this case, it is likely that the justifications and objectives of the initiated projects lose sight of the big picture. One could thus imagine a situation in which the choices made would be in the specific interest of a department in the short term but would appear to be detrimental to the company as a whole, especially in the long term.

A management approach presents many challenges. This is why you should not consider this choice lightly.

What is at stake in a management approach?

Too often postponed or not considered as a priority, a reflection on the management style that you wish to implement and advocate in your company is nevertheless crucial. The employees are not wrong at all. More than half of the executives will have no issue leaving their company because the management techniques in place are not adapted to them.

Proper management gives employees an indescribable sense of well-being. With this satisfaction, productivity tends to increase consistently. Leadership at work is, therefore, a very important element and a major determinant of the performance of a company or a team. A happy employee and fulfilled at work is an employee who stays there for a long time. The advantage is that it allows limiting a little the costs of turnover, recruitment, and substitution of staff.

When a manager is attentive to each of his employees or when he shows concern, he will encourage his employees to give the best of themselves and to surpass themselves. Obviously, this will make sense to them. And, it is clear to everyone that purpose is a primary parameter for building and maintaining motivation in a good number of people.

On the other hand, harmful management will cause a lot of stress and will be toxic to the working environment. The disadvantage is that this may increase turnover as many employees are likely to lose their motivation and, in the long run, this may have serious consequences on the effectiveness and efficiency of the teams and, by extension, the company.

In what circumstances should you use a Bottom-Up approach? Find out more in the next few lines.

Should you switch to a Bottom-Up approach?

Despite all its positive points, a bottom-up approach may not be successful in all companies and teams. Certainly, the bottom-up approach is being popularized and promoted within many organizations. However, it does not always work in all cases.

In reality, in a bottom-up approach, after the various proposals from all sides, someone has the final say to ensure that the decisions will indeed correspond to the direction in which the company is moving. The team must be well aware of this.

It is true that in a horizontal approach, individuals and teams have the opportunity to quickly make improvements and suggestions for new projects that they are confident are ideally suited to the company’s goals. We don’t necessarily expect a member of the management team to make a proposal. However, in some cases, this mode of operation can be detrimental.

questions and concerns

If the work to be done or the decision to be made is urgent, a bottom-up approach may not be ideal. A Bottom-Up approach could end up slowing down projects as more people will have to opine and contribute. In this type of situation, a top-down approach would be more appropriate. It could help you complete tasks on time and without much difficulty.

On the other hand, if you as the ultimate boss are not comfortable with the new knowledge that a bottom-up approach will provide to your employees, you may want to consider having some projects managed in a top-down manner, as most structures and teams do. On the other hand, for certain projects where the involvement and dedication of all members are required, do not hesitate to adopt a bottom-up managerial approach.

If you want to implement the Bottom-Up approach in your company, you have to meet certain requirements.

How to succeed with the Bottom up approach?

Like anything else, the success of the Bottom-Up approach requires a number of conditions. More specifically, three conditions must be met in order to ensure the success of a Bottom-up approach within a company. More on this:

  • Trusting all employees: If there is one important value that cannot be ignored in the Bottom-Up approach, it is trust. For a horizontal approach to work, all members of the company must trust each other. Giving trust is like giving space to responsibility, creativity, initiative and consequently to innovation;
  • Show all the transparency required: providing the necessary transparency helps to play on the flat hierarchy side. In addition, it helps to have only one communication for everyone. This gives everyone the opportunity to express themselves, to put forward ideas, to participate;
  • Use digital: using digital to collaborate within the company allows to get in possession of data in real-time in order to analyze them and to give feedback on a regular basis to all employees. Instant messaging, corporate social networks, goal tracking are all things that digital will allow you to do easily. Today, digital is a major tool for collaboration.

The Bottom-Up approach has several advantages. However, in order to benefit from it, you need to understand the concept and know how to introduce it in your company.

How to introduce a bottom-up culture in a company in 5 steps?

Bottom-up management breaks down the barriers between management and operational staff. We will never stop saying it, this type of management increases the degree of involvement and makes employees much more responsible. In this context, they are more motivated and are more likely to invest themselves fully in the missions assigned to them. And this necessarily makes itself felt. Profitability and productivity literally increase. Employees have the opportunity to give very relevant opinions. For example, when certain decisions do not fit with the realities of the field.

In our opinion, it is possible to introduce a bottom-up approach in a company in 5 steps.

Proceed to the choice of a service provider who will accompany the company

In order to introduce Bottom-Up into your company, the first thing you need to do is to find a company that specializes in Bottom-Up solutions to accompany you in the process. It is best to find a professional with a reputation who has a great deal of expertise and a well-defined program for implementing the Bottom-up culture within an organization.

Take stock of the initial situation and develop the action plan

As soon as the provider has an idea, you have the obligation to consult with the agency to detect together the opportunities and the obstacles to reaching the objective. Once this is done, you will be asked to set up your action plan. You must begin by defining the role and responsibilities of each person involved.

Share with your employees

Taking a Bottom-Up approach in a company where the Top-Down approach has been the norm for ages is not always easy. It’s like doing a complete 180-degree turn. In order for everything to go smoothly, internal communication is of utmost importance. Despite the undeniable advantages of the bottom-up approach, the fear of change and the unknown can lead to discontent or reluctance among your employees. To do this, you need to find the right manners and the right words to make them understand the merits of this change. For the introduction of the new approach to be successful, the approval of all or the vast majority of employees is required.

Train your employees

Getting employees to understand the benefits of the Bottom-Up approach is one thing, putting it into practice is another. To do this, you must train or have trained all your employees to explain your objective and to teach them how to work and interact in a different way with this new state of mind, the new operating mode, and the new rules in force. It is recommended that this training be carried out with the same company that accompanies you in the process.

information sharing

Follow up during and after the launch

Once you are able to start the process, you need to monitor it closely and ensure that it is running smoothly and successfully. Measuring the success of your actions and taking corrective action if necessary is more than essential. In addition, you can organize periodic meetings or gatherings to see the overall evolution of your new corporate culture.

You have probably already guessed that the Bottom-Up approach is not the only one in management.

What about the ever-present opponent of the Bottom-Up approach: the Top-Down approach?

There are two main approaches to management. The Bottom-Up approach and the Top-Down approach. After having discussed the bottom-up approach at length, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about the top-down approach for a while.

At the outset, it is important to note that neither approach is 100% perfect. The essential difference between these two methods in terms of employee well-being and performance is only in the human aspect. In other words, leaders who are toxic and lack human values such as empathy, listening skills, the ability to trust, and so on, will never fit into a bottom-up model. On the other hand, in a very human and competent management, a top-down model would be perfectly suitable.

On the other hand, it must be recognized and acknowledged that not all employees are the same. Personalities vary from one employee to another. Everyone has their own experiences and characters. Although some personalities are much more inclined toward the Bottom-Up model (involvement, trust, accountability, etc.), others have a predilection and are more comfortable evolving in a Top-Down approach (in which objectives, expectations, and tasks are clearly defined in advance by the bosses).

So what is the Top-Down approach and how does it work?

What is the Top-Down approach?

It is now a given that the Top-Down or vertical approach is the opposite of the Bottom-Up approach. This approach starts with the big picture and sets the policy or guideline in as many detailed elements as there are tiers within the company. Thus, we leave the general to go to the particular.

The animation and the deployment of the projects are done by the high hierarchy and then come to the various services of the lower level. It should be noted that the top-down approach allows the project to be conceptualized and broken down into more concrete and implementable elements.

The Top-Down approach can therefore be a particularly suitable approach in the deployment phase of the company’s raison d’être. The leaders, who hold and master the concept of raison d’être on a macroscopic scale, will be called upon to translate it into concrete principles so that it can be well understood and applied by all departments and all employees.

The Top-Down approach is the most widespread so far. If many managers prefer it, it is surely because it offers several advantages.

What are the advantages of the Top-Down approach?

Like the Top-Down approach, the Bottom-Up approach has advantages that need to be elucidated.

  • The bottom-up approach is a common and widespread practice. Consequently, it does not change the habits of the majority of employees;
  • In a Top-Down approach, the objectives and procedures are clear and well defined. This is because they are developed by the hierarchy;
  • The objectives set are much more consistent with the vision and missions of the company;
  • With the vertical approach, employees have more freedom to focus on accomplishing their tasks since they are not involved in the decision-making process;
  • If the supervisor is competent and talented, he or she will only make good decisions. In turn, the company will perform better.

Are there only advantages to the Top-Down approach? Probably not.

What are the disadvantages of the Top-Down approach?

Despite its advantages, there are some things that are criticized about the top-down approach. These include:

  • the lack of flexibility of the operation and the weak capacity to take into account the realities of the field;
  • the fact that the Top-Down model is perceived as autocratic and directive. In addition, it puts a little too much emphasis on control;
  • in a vertical approach, the leader has the obligation to be charismatic and to be able to lead the whole team by his decisions. If this is not perceived by the employees, it can lead to a decrease in motivation and a lack of productivity;
  • Senior managers and team leaders have an obligation to clearly and accurately communicate decisions from the top;
  • With a Top-Down approach, it is possible to note divergences of vision on the missions assigned and the results to be achieved.

In fact, today, even if the managers appreciate the work of the employees, the latter do not hesitate to leave their company if the managerial approach makes them uncomfortable. To avoid reaching these points, as a company or project manager, pay particular attention to the choice of a managerial approach. When you manage to choose a management style adapted to your group, you will easily be able to succeed.