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Management Commitment is a Must

Posted by admin on July 31, 2014

Our last post about Top Down vs. Bottom Up approaches to change generated a lot of commentary on LinkedIn discussion groups.  Comments ran about 50/50 for and against both approaches.  But judging from many of the comments, there was some misunderstanding about the terms “top down” and “management commitment”.  

We used the expression “top down” to reflect initiatives that are developed at the company headquarters or corporate level with little or no input from the plants that will be required to implement the initiatives.  These often come down from on high as mandates such as “do this or else”.  With no input—even on how the initiative will be implemented—there is little commitment to make the idea work.  In fact, the idea may be sabotaged just to show that it was a bad idea in the first place.

Some of the best change initiatives we have worked on were those where the management of the plant realized a need to change and initiated this on the local level.  Using input and opinions from various groups in the plant, the process generated commitment to the alternative that was selected.  Equally important is that management is committed to the success of the initiative because they were the sponsors and initiators of the change.

We have yet to see any initiative succeed at the plant level without the explicit or implicit support of the management team.  Yes, there might be “skunk works” in the plant where a small group of workers is testing ideas to see which might make a difference.  But in order to roll out promising ideas to the entire plant, the management team must be involved, and give its blessing and support.   Without this, promising ideas whither and die on the vine.

We developed a scale for three areas critical to the success of any change initiative.  Each management parameter is rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with companies scoring high on the scale for each parameter being very successful in implementing change initiatives.  The parameters and low, medium and high rating are:


Low – Enough commitment to sponsor pilot activities

Medium – Intellectually understand necessary process changes

High – Completely internalized: Behavior reflects the new thinking


Low – Personally uninvolved

Medium – No real desire to change personal behavior

High – Audits of change process and results to institutionalize the new thinking


Low – Requires significant short-term financial results

Medium – Requires short-term financial results

High – Puts quality ahead of quantity


By honest self-evaluation or asking an independent person or group to rate it, the management team can determine its commitment to the success of any initiative the plant might attempt.  If the team consistently rates in the lower range of the scale, it will need to ask how supportive it is of change initiatives and why this is the case.

There is a big different between “top down” change initiatives and those that receive management commitment at the plant level. Understanding these distinctions is critical to the success of any initiative.