This is the third of five articles on organizational change that I'm planning -- well, maybe there will be a sixth article but I'm not sure anyone can stomach that much blathering on one topic. For reference here are links to the two prior articles
“Grass Root Initiatives” are generally productive and if you’re an organization where these are prominent you’re probably in a pretty good place. To be successful, grass root initiatives must be sponsored by someone in the organizational with the resources and political clout to help the process improvement team reach their goals. Typically the sponsor will be a senior level manager or executive.
Grass root efforts generally enjoy the support of a fairly broad group of employee and are much more likely to be successfully adopted than purely top-down driven initiatives. It's something to be encouraged but does require a bit of oversight to ensure they don't run amuck -- or worse, get blown up by some moronic executive who doesn't understand what the team is attempting to achieve. There are also a few negatives that you will want to try and minimize:
- Similar to Covert Operations, grass roots type initiatives may not always be in clear alignment with the broader organizational goals. Want to get blown up? Being grossly out of alignment with the wishes of the senior executives, and it's just a matter of time until someone lobs a grenade.
- Progress is often slow and enterprise-wide adoption can be very challenging. Because there is very little stimulus for the entire organization to change, improvements are often isolated to specific departments or functional areas.
If you’re the executive sponsor of a grass root initiative, it is critical that you examine the organizational goals and ensure they are properly aligned with any changes the team is pursuing. Fail to do so and you’re likely to run into stiff resistance and some tough questions from senior level executives at some point – forcing you to go covert or abandoning your efforts. With a little storytelling and some good salesmanship, most types of organizational changes can be aligned with company goals. After all, most sane company encourages anything that will improve efficiency and profitability if properly explained.