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Ramesh Ramakrishnan

Founder, RR marketing advisory

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Companies, mainly leaders, need to take a bottom-up approach with employees in order to succeed in future

In the future leaders, managers, marketers, HR will have a different challenge or opportunity with each employee building his/her own brand and amplifying their views in the spheres of influence, these members will find it difficult to ‘manage’ human resources, they have to start thinking about how to make the company relevant to these resourceful humans so that they embrace the company objectives and convey the messages in their spheres of influence. The tables are turning, companies that are moving away from hiearchy to wirearchy will survive in the future as they will be agile, resourceful with crowdsourced insights.

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  • Apr 9 2013: I believe the connection between the 2, hierarchy vs. "wirearchy" is that one depends on the other until a certain point. There is a level of disconnect at one point or another with the individual who is promoted into the hierarchy from the mass majority or entry level. There is also a level of admiration and drive from the entry level toward the hierarchy until a certain point, in which the driving force now becomes the fuel for himself.

    The small group of elite who hold executive positions, subconsciously, along with added responsibility within their position create this environment of inferiority and believe that their talents have gotten them to their position to make the right choices. At some point you believe that your strengths and those of the fellow colleagues in his/her elite group can come together to make the right choices for the company. If you have a group of like minded people with the same responsibility you are not adding variables to your choice making process. In turn you will mostly have the same views and agree with a lot of the same idea's. Although it is their responsibility to make choices, you must also realize that the level of education and idea spread amongst the younger entry level employees are still at a stage being exercised to their fullest capacity.

    There will always be the cycle in which one generation is gone, the new will replace. The entry level or "bottom" should be able to openly continue to exercise their creativity amongst the hierarchy. The point is to break the cycle and to create variety in a controlled organization within the company. In no way allowing the bottom to make choices is the answer, but creating a gateway for their ideas to be filtered through and acknowledged is.

    There is no point to diminish the 2 way street in which ideas are spread. It is known that the best method of creativity drives the force in innovation which in turn is success.
    • Apr 9 2013: Agreed, 2 way or multi-way is the future. An example here is what happened at Kodak( http://futuristcmo.com/category/organization-culture/ ) , of course there are many other examples. As human beings we aspire to achieve something and hence have a drive to get there, and during this path we are happy to listen, learn, change. But the moment we achieve something and our credibility increases, we hesitate trying new things, because of the fear of failure and its impact of our so-called credibility.
      The other angle to it is the elitism, like-minded group points you mentioned, these aspects give people some sort of comfort in order to shield the forces of change. I strongly believe that in the years to come, investors will not only look at the strength of the management team in order to steer a company forward but also will look at the systems within a company to allow interaction and also employee satisfaction scores. This will have an impact on long term success of companies, companies can no longer push things under the carpet and the same applies to each employee. Collaborate, give credit, own up and deliver - credit hijacking, blame culture, stalling good ideas from colleagues will not work in future.
  • Apr 8 2013: We don't have the kind of leadership to make this happen regretably.
    • Apr 8 2013: Yes, there is a lot of talk about this subject these days, so hopefully it will make a small difference. Generation Y might be in a better position to do it, but yes currently such leadership seems to be rare.
  • Apr 6 2013: There are so many factors and variables that I am not sure you can say that. Can you say that Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun were failures because they didn't buy into that concept. I have never dealt with a company or whatever that really bought into what we were told would work in B-School. Remember that Stalin had a usable H-bomb before the Great Democracies with all the physicists and great universities. I don't know if Beria was in charge like with their atom bomb. I don't know if they had a list of who to blame or kill if it don't work. There are two ways to motivate people. Only two real ways exist.
    • Apr 6 2013: Hi George

      I like the examples you gave, the type of problems and people mindset many centuries back (Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great...) were so different. Social media and other networking platforms have made people with similar problems connect in mass numbers and the reactions, expectations are so different.
      Also in business there is so much information with people in the field/across departments, whereas senior management sometimes miss out on this information if they are not connected well enough internally. I'm not suggesting that this is the case across all companies, but by having a bottom up approach as well, the information flow becomes 2-way. This approach becomes even more critical to survive in the connected media age.

      Ramesh
      • Apr 7 2013: Ramesh I am not disagreeing with what you suggested. I am just feeling that there is not a great deal of listening going on.
        • Apr 7 2013: I know George, agree that there is not a great deal of listening going on. To a certain level thats a problem that most people have, they talk more than they listen, i guess companies and leaders only mirror this habit.
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    Apr 5 2013: The short answer is you need to have both the bottom up and the top down.

    Any organization has to perform certain functions or it will not survive.

    Edward Deming was the father of the Toyota manufacturing system and TQM and Lean and indirectly Six Sigma. They are about removing waste from companies process's. Which would include unnecessary levels of management.

    At the other end of the spectrum Apple would not have been Apple without Jobs. John Sculley fired Jobs and the company languished he came back and built it into one of the richest company in the world. Walmart had Sam Walton, Ford had Henry Ford who borrowed the assembly line from meat packing plants, Kiichiro Toyoda borrowed many ideas from Ford in Toyota's manufacturing.

    I agree bottom up is an imperative.

    There have been some tremendous sucess stories of this being implemented in goverment.
    • Apr 5 2013: Thanks Pat

      I agree that it has to be top down and bottom up, considering that top-down is already there, I was emphazing on bottom-up to complement top-down. There are many names in the industry like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford who have built up a company and its reputation, perhaps they wanted to build a great product or company, that's what they are passionate about. Some leaders don't have that intent or capability, they are more keen on building their reputation or short term goals and hence not ready to listen to anyone around them, thereby creating a 'negative vacuum' as I mentioned below.
      I believe a bottom-up approach with some voice, can help break through these 'negative vacuum' areas around leaders, which is only good for the company.
      Its refreshing to hear about such success stories in government.
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        Apr 5 2013: There has to be a vision/goal. Managers typically do not have the vision/goal. Anything persistently negative is not inherent in any business management, that is simply not true.

        Some of the leaders do cross over from being interested to being interesting which is a problem which can create conflict. The best way to manage anything is by using the scientific method which means managing with metrics. When you do this is removes bad emotion from the process.
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    Apr 5 2013: Again we revisit Marxism where the value of the product is in the craftsmen. Where that may have been true in the 17 and 1800's it is not even a consideration now. The roles of the top and the bottom are nowhere near. At the bottom it may be my task to put in the right taillight ... my supervisor is in charge of all head and tail lights ... his boss watches all lighting interior and exterior ... his boss manages electrical systems ... etc

    A CEO meets with finance, personnel, administration, operations, advertising, transportation, etc ..

    To the best of my knowledge only Henry Ford and Lee Iacocca were the only two heads of motor companies who ever made or designed a car.

    I find it refreshing to watch Under Cover Boss at times. The big cheese goes into the field and the trainer usually says he is not suited to perform the task and would not hire him/her.

    It is hard for a boss to hear what they really need to hear ... most tell them what they think he wants to hear. Some bosses are egomaniacs ... would you tell Donald Trump the truth probally not because he is a micromanager with a super ego and in essence you would be telling him he was wrong ... check your resume first.

    Industries like armies run on the strength of the first line supervisors and their ability to relate, listen, communicate, and direct the crews. It is these supervisors that must have a line of communications up to decision makers at the production level manager ... it is his/her job to sell it and get it funded.

    The additional problem is unions ... any changes must go through negoations. Union had a purpose and were needed early on. They fought management and now unions are mostly management themselves.

    Going from the bottom up has proven there is no structure and therefore falls apart rapidly. The bottom cannot fund the operation ... only sees to the product ... lacks marketing ,,, transporting ... etc ...

    It has been tried .. and failed.

    Bob.
    • Apr 5 2013: Thanks for the note, Nice point on craftsmen.

      Regarding yout point on Donald Trump and similar people: the issue is that such people create an atmosphere of what i call 'negative vacuum' around them, which is no one dares to bring negative news to them, if they do they either get fried or fired! So over time the real issues are not dealt with and things are pushed under the carpet till its too late or it explodes.
      Fro, the bottomup approach i meant, people getting their opinions and issues out instead of being blocked by the 'negative vacuum', they may not be in a position to make the decisions like you mentioned, but tostart with, they should have a voice and that will ensure they get a response.
      Yes most of the unions have lost their focus in terms of what they stood for, either management has infiltrated the unions or union top people have been bought out or just acting on their own interests/ short term goals.
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    Apr 4 2013: G'day Ramesh

    Good post by the way.......Utterly agree, the hierarchy system has to die out for us to go on &/or for capitalism to work properly in the future.

    There is a fundamental problem, we have more highly educated people running the show today who think they know it all because they have some sort of degree, they are not going to want to give up their social status & lower themselves down to a supposed lower class of people.

    The strangest thing is we have many more highly educated people with all these degrees running the show but the world is in a bigger mess than it ever has been plus corruption in repent throughout the system & the world, what happened to intelligence?

    Any smart highly educated person will do as you say & go the way of wirearchy however I don't think they teach common sense in universities/colleges just egotism & hierarchy. Thank God my stepdaughter had common sense enough before going into uni because she witnessed utter snobbery brought on by egotism & hierarchy at it's worse.

    Love
    Mathew
    • Apr 5 2013: Good-day Mathew, thanks for your post.

      I think hierarchy starts at an very early stage in ones life- schools, society, university etc. the problem i have with the education system is it focuses mainly on technical or subject aptitude and not much on attitude thats related to doing things along with others. In my experience Ive seen many partially intelligent people who are good in their subject but cannot stand a difference in opinion and they will just bulldoze through, which is not good for a larger group in order to achieve a common goal, thats why i call such members as partially intelligent!

      In my view one good thing that social media has done to generation Y is, they will get used to airing their opinion and the so called negative vacuum will disappear overtime. Of course there is a danger of having too much noise on different subjects sometimes on social media, but I guess it will evolve over time.

      Ramesh
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    Apr 4 2013: I believe one could find plenty of evidence that shallow rather than highly hierarchical forms of organization work better in situations in which one needs creativity and flexibility from employees. In many sorts of work, the front line of employees has better information about what those they serve need and what works than do those more distant from the client. Micromanaging professional and creative people is not a good recipe for offering exceptional service.

    It seems to me that there was plenty of evidence on this already by the 1960s or 1970s, but I would need to do a literature search to find it.

    And with communication being so much easier, coordination and information sharing among employees ought to be easier than it has ever been.
    • Apr 4 2013: Thanks Fritzie for your comments, fully agree on value of the front line employee point.

      Some leaders think they know or should know more than their team members and because of this thought they tend to micro manage or not listen. The impact of such culture on the marketing department is immense as they are responsible for the company image etc, but now things are changing.
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        Apr 4 2013: Sometimes leaders do know more about some things, while knowing less about others. But in my experience micromanaging has more to do with wanting to control outcomes or a distrust of employees. Specifically objectives at the top and objectives at the bottom might be different. In the literature I believe this is called "the agency problem."
        • Apr 5 2013: Yes, agree that the objectives can be different. Some leaders or organisations have a solution to this, because there is mutual trust, these 2 communities communicate their intent and problems. That makes the other community appreciate the actions and co-operate.

          Problem is when a 2 way trust deficit occurs, people dont communicate the objectives or intent, they dont even communicate their actions. People then stumble upon results after its been carried out, then the blame game starts!

          Ramesh