An organization is not a democracy.

On my piece “how do I realize organizational change” several times came the comment that it would be top-down and therefore outdated. However, both arguments are not correct.

The article.

the relevant article itself deals mainly with the things to look out for during an organizational change. What change the organization [read employees] is going through and what the effects may be. Especially also with which forms of reaction one has to deal with. Those who have regularly supervised major change processes, in which the entire organization has to make a change, will certainly recognize these issues. They are also described in many management books. This has little to do with top down.

Top down.

Top-down is often used as a false argument. Because of the negative connotation given to it, everything that tends towards it is by definition wrong and guilty. If the organization gets bogged down, then this argument is quickly dismissed. A painful miss.

First, each organization is by definition arranged top down. Every organization has a clear hierarchical structure. Public organizations too. Only political power is regulated differently. But also political power is not a matter of bottom-up or top-down, but the best possible balance between 3 powers [trias politica]

Bottom up

So vice versa. What is bottom-up then? Any decision is made from the workplace? You shake your head instantly. Exaggerated statement indeed. No organizational change is arranged bottom-up. In all cases, the impetus for change was, in all cases, initiated from policy views drawn up by a higher hierarchy. Naturally, a department can work on its own improvements, within its own department boundaries. But then it immediately reaches its limits. In cross-departmental matters and conflicting interests, a higher level will focus on the change. There is simply no top-down or bottom-up. That any change should be bottom-up, when a holy grail is presented, is therefore a false representation.


Top down and bottom up cannot do without each other. They are 2 sides of the same coin. Anyone who detests or dismisses top down as obsolete denies the functional functioning of the organization. Even in ‘perfect’ self-managing teams, you will always find a ‘leader’ or manager. Changes are never spontaneous because the team, jointly and simultaneously, suddenly takes the initiative there. Putting top down is also denying that leadership in individuals can be a decisive factor, or at least an extremely significant factor, in the creation and realization of improvements.

It is in the essence of man to look for a leader who shows the way

The successful organizational change is achieved through good and open cooperation between the different layers in the organization. Policy is tested against its environment, but also internally for potential and feasibility. Where on the one hand expectations are matched with possibilities and results. Recognizing that change comes and must come from two sides is perhaps the most important condition for change to succeed.