Top-down can work if….

Issue 5, 2017

Top-down can work if….


If what? Top-down can be negative, and usually is.

But it can also be powerful when you have equally strong bottom-up and horizontal flows of information and influence.

In this issue, I look at two examples. The first example is how “working out loud”, which usually starts at grassroots and spreads, was a powerful management tool at NASA, initiated from the top, but based on bottom-up and horizontal flows. This happened over 50 years ago. It was an extraordinary case of leadership, based on pens, paper and a photocopy machine – food for thought in the digital age.

The second example is rolling out a strategic transformation program. These programs – starting at the top – can succeed if certain decision-making principles are practiced right from the very beginning: How you make your decisions is more important that what the decisions are.

Enjoy and be sure to get in touch with your comments and feedback as always.


“Working out loud” is usually a people movement encouraged by enthusiasts and gradually spreading. However,  it can start at the top, as it did at NASA over 50 years ago.

When it comes to turning a strategic vision into reality on the ground, you need to involve the right people at the right time, long before you start implementation.

How you make your decisions is more important that what the decisions are. Who you involve may determine whether or not your strategic decisions will turn into reality on the ground.

Blending top-down and bottom-up, by Jane in MITSloan Management Review. Neutralize Internal Politics in Digital Initiatives.

In Neutralize Internal Politics in Digital Initiatives (published on MITSloan Management Review last month) I propose 4 tips about how to blend top-down and bottom up so that your transformation initiatives don’t get bogged down by internal politics.

What I’ve been doing recently…

Leading in the Digital Age, MOOC, Boston University

The Executive Summary and Key Findings from my 2016/2017 research report will be included in Boston University’s MOOC (massive open online course) on EedX, whose mission is “increasing global access to quality education. We connect learners to the best universities and institutions from around the world”. The course is Leading in the Digital Age.

FYI: You can request a free copy of the Executive Summary and Key Findings here. I am now sharing the Key Findings in addition to the Executive Summary, so if you already received the Exec. Summary, you may well want to drop back in and get the Key Findings.

Working out loud with ZF, guests at IntraNetwork in November

The network of practitioners I run in Paris – IntraNetwork –  welcomed Beate Strittmatter (@BeateStritt) and Julia Weber (@JulBSee ) of ZFwho facilitated a working out loud session so inspiring that two of the companies in my group plan to try it out themselves.

People Leadi2Summit in Zurich

You can see most of the slides I used at the i2summit 2017 in Zurich. Here’s a link to a pre-conference interview of me by Ellen Trude. Three key words in my talk: Inclusive, Decision-making, Movements.

Getting ready for the biggest French-speaking “intra-digital-social transformation” conference in the world

I’ve chaired this conference for the last 10 years.  It takes place late November every year in Paris. It is packed with case studies and round table discussions. If you read French, you can learn more here. My keynote isn’t ready but I’m working on it!