„Top down war gestern“ ist ein Satz, der mir leicht über die Lippen geht. Und sofort finde ich Zuspruch. Für Prof. Dr. Anneloes Raes, Associate Professor im ‘Department of Managing People in Organizations‘ an der Wirtschaftshochschule IESE, hat diese Art von Management ebenfalls ausgedient. Um Mitarbeitende im Unternehmen zu halten, ist gute Führung wichtiger denn je. Das C-Level (Top Management) eines Unternehmens muss umdenken, belegt sie in ihrer aktuellen Studie.
Nach 20 Jahren mitten drin in den Veränderungsprogrammen großer Unternehmen weiß ich: es braucht so viel mehr, um sich wirklich nachhaltig zu verändern! „Eine Anordnung von Oben“ reicht heute schon lang nicht mehr aus (außer vielleicht bei Militär und da gibt es viele gute Gründe für eine reibungslose Befehlskette!)

Wow! And already I have caught myself devaluing something that has worked for many years for good reason. Reason enough to take a closer look at the topic!

The pros and cons of top-down decisions in change Prozess

As a change expert, I promote involving people, informing them at an early stage, consciously encouraging the formation of opinions and then involving them in shaping the best solution. Shared solutions are still focused on the same goal and are also effective and sustainable. Here we invest a little more time in the change process in order to achieve a much more resilient result in the end. Of course, at first glance, this is difficult to do with "top down" decision-making processes.

Top-down decisions bring along certain cons:

  1. Lack of participation and insufficient derivation of the need for change leads to lower acceptance of change and less willingness to follow the new processes or procedures. Why? Because employees' concerns were not considered and their operational experience was not used.
  2. Less acceptance of change inevitably leads to employees trying to find their easiest way in this new world and this often ends in shadow processes and workarounds. This makes companies untransparent and the energy of the employees will go against the aspired goal.
  3. The company is inflexible. Because employees are not encouraged to think proactively, it is often not possible to react quickly enough to changes or unforeseen events. But this will become increasingly important in the future.
  4. The willingness to perfrom is reduced, because employees don't have any control over the change and their opinions aren't taken into account.

Top-down decisions in change can therefore lead to problems that endanger the success of the change. But not only! There are also many advantages that should not be overlooked:

  1. Efficiency: Top-down decisions can be made quickly and efficiently. This can help to implement change more quickly and minimise the impact on the company and its employees.
  2. A strong vision for the change: As decisions are made from the top, there is a shared vision for change, followed by clear instructions that help staff understand what is expected of them and how the change will be implemented.
  3. A stable and consistent change implementation Decisions and instructions from the top promote a uniform approach. This helps minimise confusion and uncertainty among staff.

Can we use the best of the "top-down" approach and still avoid the disadvantages?

Yes! And that's exactly what we have to do if we want to make our companies future-fit.

To lead our companies efficiently and effectively through a phase of change, we need top-down decisions to a certain extent. They provide the necessary secure framework in which the participatory processes of sustainable change can unfold! If the vision behind the transformation is backed up with clear goals and carefully communicated, it gives the workforce a clear direction. This creates orientation! Likewise, a consistent process for implementation provides a stable framework in which participatory processes can take place. They enable us to use the swarm intelligence of the company in a structured way for the solution picture.

Glückliches Team.


If we want to face the challenges of tomorrow, the involvement of employees in our decision-making and change processes must become routine.

It is not about deciding everything in a grassroots democratic way from tomorrow. Essentially, it is about two things: respect for eachother & collective knowledge.
Yes, we still need a certain amount of top-down decision-making because it gives many employees the necessary security before they take action themselves. The magic word for leaders is: COURAGE. Courage, as a top leader, to focus only on the framework conditions. Courage not to have everything under control. And courage to entrust oneself to the participatory process without knowing what the result will be.

What we gain from this:

  1. We gain time. If employees are informed at an early stage and participate in the solution process, they can deal with the issue immediately, adjust to it and reduce reservations.
  2. We work out a viable, accepted solution.Informed employees can contribute to the discussion by asking specific questions and giving advice, help to avoid mistakes and develop a viable solution. In this way, the company can use its swarm knowledge and at the same time increase the change towards an accepted solution.
  3. We increase our attractiveness as an employerThis process as an established routine and element of the corporate culture demonstrates the appreciation of all involved and is the hallmark of an attractive employer.

My recommendation for leaders in change and transformation:

  1. Have the courage to give up control!
  2. Set a clear goal!
  3. Involve large groups in finding solutions!
  4. Control the participation process and not the details of the solution!

If you would like to discuss this in more detail, if you could use some suggestions for your current situation or if you would like to have a sparring partner for a short period of time for your transformation programme, please feel free to contact us!

QUICK-FIX – A big step forward in your change project in just 90 minutes!

CHANGE COACHING – Your expert on your shoulder! In 6-7 sessions I accompany you through your change challenges.

I can recommend the following links to delve deeper into the topic:

Link to the „Hearconomy“-Podcast Interview with Prof. Dr. Anneloes Raes discussing the results of her study.

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