"Top Down or Bottom Up Change?" by Michael Fekete

 How best to create sustainable transformation across your organisation.

Is your organisation facing constant change with multiple initiatives happening at once? Are your employees able to absorb all this change at the same time? And do they understand why the change is happening and what it means for them? Do the Executive team have the right visibility on where benefits are actually being realised?

The approach taken to change in your organisation will determine whether the transformation is sustained in the long-term. Many organisations rightly focus on driving through short term individual changes (albeit with significant benefit), but taking a holistic approach to how you build change capability can be the difference between one-off change and an enduring culture of change.

I will be talking more about this theme at the European Business Change & Transformation Conference on 19 March 2019, organised by IRM UK.

There are many well-recognised methodologies and frameworks out there that provide excellent approaches to portfolio, programme and change management. However too often they are simply rolled out of a textbook and applied without understanding and adapting to the situation and culture of the organisation in question.

My experience having worked for, and with a range of organisations, is that no single approach will work on its own, and certainly not from a textbook, because change must be designed with, and for the people in your organisation to achieve the best outcome. 

Instead, I have found that there some common principles that seem to stand out as essential regardless of the organisation’s culture.

  • The change approach for your organisation needs to be designed to fit the existing and targeted culture;
  • Change must be people-led if it is to be enduring and sustainable;
  • A purely top-down approach to change is unlikely to maximise benefits in the long-term;
  • The approach must be easy to understand for its users and not built so that only technical practitioners understand it;

By adopting these principles and then co-designing the best way to manage the portfolio of change, with the right balance of focus on change capability development, governance where needed and giving freedom to innovate around change, will you achieve optimum benefit realisation? And ultimately this is what will help you create sustainable transformation.

To find out more, do come along to the IRM UK conference and hear me talk more about my experience, research and application of designing organisational change for multiple companies and the key ingredients for success. I am sure you will have your own stories and lessons to share with the audience, and no doubt a challenging question or two for me…..

In the meantime, please do check out my newly launched website www.bespokechange.co.uk where you can find case studies and further articles on how to build sustainable transformation.


The Business Transformation Network has posted this article in partnership with Bespoke Change.


Michael Fekete is the Director of Bespoke Change, a change management consultancy focused on enhancing business benefits and sustainable transformation through the introduction of specialist change, portfolio and programme management techniques.
Prior to this, Michael has 17+ years experience in transformational change, leadership and portfolio/programme roles working across the public and private sectors, on both the client-side and within internal consultancy roles. He spent 10 years in HM Treasury and Infrastructure UK, leading reforms and change in the commercial property, postal and infrastructure sectors, including 3 years as Chief Operating Officer of Infrastructure UK.
More recently Michael spent 5 years in the rail sector, implementing a number of transformation programmes, as well as introducing portfolio and change management capability to drive a more balanced and deliverable transformation agenda.  He has an Executive MBA from Henley Business School, and specialised in Change Management. For more information about Bespoke Change please visit www.bespokechange.co.uk