Bottom-up planning is a type of corporate planning strategy that seeks to make use of the talents and abilities of employees all along the structure of the business, rather than relying mainly on managers and executives to develop programs and manage projects. The idea of this approach is to tap into the experience and knowledge base of employees throughout the company. When employed successfully, this approach can have a very positive effect on employee productivity, since employees at all levels feel more invested in the success of the business.
The concept of bottom-up planning is contrasted with the more common top-down planning that is used in various types of business operations. With top-down planning, the creation of policies and procedures, development of projects, and other matters of operation are managed solely by owners, managers, and executives. Those projects are approved by a board of directors or other governing body that is part of the company structure. From there, lower level employees are involved only to the extent of being told what to do as part of the carrying out of the project, and typically have little to no input in how things are done.
By contrast, a bottom-up planning approach allows for ideas for policies, procedures, and different projects to originate with employees at any level in the company structure, up to and including the development of those ideas. From there, managers and others are involved in the process and ultimately the ideas are presented to a board or other governing entity within the company structure. If approved, then the creators of the project normally work closely with managers and executives to bring the projects to fruition.
There are several benefits associated with bottom-up planning. Employees who feel free to come up with ideas and develop them with support from managers and others are likely to be more invested in the success of the company. This in turn motivates employees to be more productive and to see the company as a long-term partner. Morale is often improved as the result of the use of bottom-up planning, with the added bonuses of lower absenteeism and lower employee turnover. Even after projects are approved and project managers assigned, developers of the ideas often participate in the process, and have the satisfaction of participating in the task of making the idea into reality.
Many companies find that creating a culture that includes the best aspects of both bottom-up and top-down planning can have a profound impact on how employees at different levels relate to and support one another. This environment can also often allow gifted employees the opportunity to understand the company structure in more detail, which in turn can be helpful for anyone who wishes to advance within that structure. At the same time, this sort of approach to planning strategy allows employers to assess those gifted employees and possibly mentor them for promotion in years to come, rather than hiring from outside and having to invest additional resources in training.