I’m a firm believer that many, if not most innovation and improvement ideas should germinate from the bottom of the hierarchical organization upwards while simultaneously being supported from the top of the organization downward. In other words, HUGE aggregated benefits are gained when an organization enables a culture where everyone contributes to improvement ideas AND where they are acknowledged along with the strategic support of leadership and upper management.

Michal Piatkowski, BPM Manager at Apriso, talking on a similar topic states, “It becomes a means of leveraging the experience and skills of every […] employee in the enterprise, ensuring that improvements, no matter where they come from, are discovered, evaluated and deployed everywhere – to the benefit of the entire enterprise.”

In my experience, I have seen the lackluster impact that occurs when a single team or individual is assigned to come up with innovative ideas or process improvements. That’s not to say that there isn’t value in having, let’s say, a dedicated process improvement team. Rather, the ultimate value is realized when the larger part of the organization participates in innovation and improvement.

Even with the whole organization generating innovation and improvement ideas, it should be communicated that not all ideas will come to fruition, and that’s OK too. That’s why it is equally important to have a balance of support from leadership and upper management. They need to set the strategic vision and expectation that guides the projects that the organization will execute and implement.

Taken from my article “A Continuous Improvement CoE will Change Everything”, I provided the following suggestions that will help with this bottom-up/top-down method.

“One way to enable this is to implement a virtual suggestion box to generate ideas and manage process improvement ideas. Personally, I call this tool the “Kaizen Repository” or “Kaizen Ideas Library”. These ideas are then managed and supported as appropriate based on the scope and impact of the improvement idea. Where necessary, Lean Six Sigma or PMO experts can be assigned to manage the improvement ideas as projects, but there should also be an expectation that the various teams be accountable to execute on simplistic “just do it” improvement ideas too.

I have seen great success come from organizations that are willing to reward employees for their improvement ideas and the implementation of those ideas. This reward does not need to be financial, but should include recognition at some level from management. For me, that is part of creating a culture of continuous improvement.”

In my work experience, I have seen both sides of the coin. One company that I worked at encouraged, or rather expected all employees to participate in generating new ideas and ways to become more efficient. They did more than that though. They also expected that everyone would participate in implementing their improvements ideas as guided by the Continuous Improvement team. This was part of the company goals from the Executive VP down to the hourly part-time associate. Great value and many success stories came from this movement and company culture.

On the other hand, another company that I worked for did not have the previously-mentioned culture and expectation (they did state that they wanted everyone to be accountable for improving their work, but the leadership support was not there). For me, that made my job very hard as a Process Improvement practitioner. I took great effort to allow people to trust in my improvement efforts and to change processes.

Tell me about what you’ve experienced! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article.


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Chad Higgins

Chad Higgins

Contributing Author

With 12 years of diverse project management experience, Chad brings a unique perspective to PMforToday.com. Whether it was at the start of his career as an ice cream store manager or more recently as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and ITIL leader in the telecommunications arena, Chad has always zeroed in on the kinds of changes that make a business function more effectively. Chad's formal background in process improvement complements his seasoned project repertoire. He's never found a team or process that couldn't improve in some area, and Chad is a firm believer that a healthy company culture is fundamental to any process improvement initiative.


PM for Today has helped me build my personal brand by enabling me to reach a larger audience that otherwise would not have known about my articles and by providing a centralized place for me to share my experiences and interests. My LinkedIn profile views have double since becoming a contributing author on PMforToday.com and I love being part of something larger than myself.

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