Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Gerardo A Dada, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Sematext Blog, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Apache, Agile Computing

Apache: Article

Project Management 2.0

Leveraging the Advantages of Top-Down and Bottom-Up

Andrew Filev's Product Management 2.0 Blog

Nowadays we can observe changes going on in management and especially project management in organizations. More and more, organizations are abandoning top-down management style. Among them are the New York Times, Tribune Co., Ernst & Young and many others. Even the world's biggest corporations, such as Toyota and IBM, are trying to implement bottom-up management style elements in some of their departments.

The bottom-up approach to management is becoming more and more popular. However, the discussions about the two major approaches are still hot. What is the reason for the ongoing changes in management processes? The answer to this question will be obvious when we compare the two management styles.

The Top-down Approach to Project Management

Today, many projects are still managed according to the top-down approach. The essence of this approach is that all the directions come from the top. The top management establishes project objectives and provides guidelines, information, plans and fund processes. The manager clearly communicates his expectations to each person who has a role to play in the project. According to advocates of this approach, the managers should be as specific as possible when communicating expectations, since ambiguity opens the door for potential failure. This approach strictly follows a formal process.

The top-down approach is applied in many organizations. Let’s have a look at the New York Times, a leader in the newspaper industry. According to ajr.com (American Journalism Review) several years ago, The Times’ executive management felt that they were doing the opposite of what was needed to create a vibrant workplace and a successful enterprise. They centralized power and implemented overall control among masthead editors. The latter introduced the same management pattern in the projects they were responsible for. Project decisions were influenced by the emotions and opinions of only one person – the project manager. What was the result? People felt that they weren't listened to, that their voices didn't count. There was no effective collaboration between the journalists. They were not morally motivated to do their jobs. The managing executives then realized that the management style should be changed by giving more freedom to the teams. It took a lot of time to introduce a bottom-up approach to management. However, it was worth the time and effort, as the collaboration is now enhanced and teams work more productively.

The problems caused by a top-down approach can be observed in many organizations with a traditional management style. Experience shows that this approach can reduce productivity and cause bottlenecks or so-called lockdowns.  “Lockdown” gives a project manager as much control as possible over his team. This inflexibility can cause unnecessary pain and slow down the project completion.

The Bottom-up Approach to Project Management


All the above mentioned factors can lead projects to failure, and that is why many organizations have turned to a bottom-up management style or at least some of its elements. The New York Times is a good example. Bottom-up management proactively seeks the input of the team in the project executing process. Employees are invited to participate in every step of the process, and the team as a whole agrees on a course of action. This approach allows managers to communicate goals and value, e.g. through milestone planning. Then team members have to develop personal to-do lists with the steps necessary to reach the milestones on their own. It is up to them to choose the methods and ways to perform their tasks.

The advantage of this approach is that it empowers team members to think more creatively. They feel involved into the project development and know that their initiatives are appreciated. The team members’ motivation to work and make the project  a success is increased. Individual members of the team can provide project solutions that are driven more by practical requirements than abstract notions. The planning process flows significantly faster, as it is facilitated by a number of people. The to-do lists of all the team members are collected into the detailed general project plan. Schedules, budgets and results are transparent. Issues are made clear by the project manager to avoid as many  surprises as possible. Bottom-up project management is also a way of coping with the increasing gap between the information necessary to manage knowledge workers and the ability of managers to acquire and apply this information.

However, despite all of the advantages, the bottom-up approach is not the perfect solution, as sometimes it lacks clarity and control. Many experts agree that a bottom-up style alone will not make your projects flourish. A wise project manager will take the best practices from the two approaches and try to create a hybrid method.

Taking the Best from the Two Approaches

Would it be possible to effectively introduce the best bottom-up practices to an organization by utilizing  traditional tools? Traditional project management software was mostly designed with the top-down approach in mind and are not meant for the bottom-up management. This software is complex and hard to master. This software is focused on the project manager and place him or her in the center or the project. Team members very often do not have access to the project plan and cannot make contributions. The employees send their updates to the project manager in disconnected files via e-mail. The project manager then collects all the data and puts the information manually into  the project plan. Then he or she communicates the changes to the upper management. The misalignment between the bottom-up best principles and the old tools causes a  situation where the project manager's talents often are buried by the routine work. The amount of  mechanical control/synchronization work sometimes does not leave time for leadership.

The old methods of how people share and receive information have been radically transformed in the recent times. Now there are more means for the successful implementation of the bottom-up management best practices. These means are Enterprise 2.0 technologies – wikis, blogs, and collaboration tools. They come into organizations and change the original way of executing projects. They turn traditional project management into Project Management 2.0 and bring new patterns of collaboration, which are based on collective intelligence. Collective intelligence is a collection of valuable knowledge from different fields that each project team member is an expert in. This knowledge is now successfully collected and shared in a flexible, collaborative environment brought by second-generation project management software. The project manager is the one to conduct the work and choose the right direction for the project development, based on the information received from the individual employees.

Thus, the part the project manager plays in the project changes. Project Management 2.0 software helps him or her create complete delegation. It means that people become less dependent on the manager as a to-do generator. Rather than a taskmaster, he or she turns into a project leader who facilitates the team communications, provides a creative working environment and guides the team. He or she becomes a visionary who can leverage the  team strengths and weaknesses and adjust project development to the external changes. Individual team members still have the freedom and responsibility to find their way to the next milestone.

The second-generation tools allow you to merge the advantages of the two initial management approaches. These tools let project managers combine control and collaboration, clarity of project goals and visibility of internal organizational processes. 

img

Thousands of companies now confirm that bottom-up project management, implemented with the help of Enterprise 2.0 tools, improved their business performance. Among them are Bell Canada, Sun and Yahoo. They created corporate blogs to streamline project communications. Even giants, such as IBM, realize the benefits of allowing contributors to have a more active hand in how collaborative work is organized.

My conclusion will be that democratizing project management is never an end in itself. The primary goal is always to find ways to make project management and project collaboration more efficient. New technologies applied to projects offer us the ability  to make projects more successful and teams more productive. The projects are delivered much more rapidly, and this is to everyone’s benefit.


[This article appeared orignally here and is reproduced in full here by kind permission of the author.]

More Stories By Andrew Filev

Since 2001, Andrew Filev has been managing software teams in a global environment. His technical expertise and his management vision are reflected in online and offline articles that have had hundreds of thousands of readers. His ideas on new trends in project management are published in his blog www.wrike.com/projectmanagement.htm. He has given speeches on new trends in project management and deployment of the next-generation, Web-based applications on deferent events, including the PMI Silicon Valley Tools and Techniques Forum and the Office 2.0 Conference (Project Management panel). Filev's innovative ideas and passion to improve project management tools are applied in Wrike, a leading online project management solution which he now leads the company as a founder and CEO. He graduated from St. Petersburg State University and the Stockholm School of Economics. He also received the honored award of Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP).

Comments (3) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Anonymoussd 12/05/08 03:00:51 AM EST

http://wireless.sys-con.com/user

Anonymoussd 12/05/08 03:00:40 AM EST

http://wireless.sys-con.com/user

PM Hut 07/09/08 06:26:39 AM EDT

Here's a complementary article on [http://www.pmhut.com/the-mini-project-manager-concept The benefits of the bottom-up approach in Project Management].

@ThingsExpo Stories
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
"We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, provided an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data professionals...
Internet of @ThingsExpo has announced today that Chris Matthieu has been named tech chair of Internet of @ThingsExpo 2017 New York The 7th Internet of @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Chris Matthieu is the co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, a revolutionary real-time IoT platform recently acquired by Citrix. Octoblu connects things, systems, people and clouds to a global mesh network allowing users to automate and control design flo...
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
The idea of comparing data in motion (at the sensor level) to data at rest (in a Big Data server warehouse) with predictive analytics in the cloud is very appealing to the industrial IoT sector. The problem Big Data vendors have, however, is access to that data in motion at the sensor location. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Scott Allen, CMO of FreeWave, discussed how as IoT is increasingly adopted by industrial markets, there is going to be an increased demand for sensor data from the outermos...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, director/senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2017 New York. The 20th Cloud Expo and 7th @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Internet to enable us all to im...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.