05272017

Want Profits? Bottoms Up!

BURP: Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

I’m not suggesting that you host an open bar at work. What I am suggesting is that you adopt the BURP strategy in your place of business. Okay, now I’m sure you think I just returned from a two martini lunch, but alas I’m quite serious (yes, sober too). The BURP strategy (Bottom’s Up for Remarkable Profits) is based on a single premise: nobody knows how to make your business succeed like those that do the work.

In business, high-level managers are responsible for creating the vision and mission, setting the direction in which the business will go and the means by which it will go there. Mid-level managers are responsible for implementing the policies and plans created at the highest level. Front-line managers direct the activities of the non-managerial personnel. Each of these people are subordinate to someone. If you’re the CEO, it’s the Board; a VP, it’s the CEO; and so on.

Bottom’s up? Why does it matter?

Every subordinate is the expert when it comes to the jobs they’re entrusted to do. Success and profitability depend upon the performance of each and every subordinate. Imagine that staff at any level are not aware of the compelling vision and mission. Imagine they lack the tools and supplies needed to achieve the goals set out for them. Imagine that the instruction given to them is not sufficient, clear and practical. Imagine there’s no feedback loop, and all these things go unnoticed.

Who knows best when things are not what they should be? The answer is the subordinates — every single one of them. Bottom’s-Up matters because those who are performing a task know better than anyone (Yes, even better than the one who assigned the task) whether or not things are working well and how they can be improved. A more effective and efficient workplace is one that can and will achieve greater profitability.

Things will be different

Working from the bottom up requires extraordinary effort on the part of subordinates at all levels. Folks in superior positions view their position as one of authority — the final answer, if you will. The BURP strategy requires that folks at all levels seek answers from their subordinates and, more importantly, that they listen to and act upon this information carefully. This doesn’t mean anyone needs to surrender their responsibility to lead and to manage. Rather, it means that a vigorous campaign of collaboration must be implemented. A campaign that transcends some long held beliefs and expectations.

It’s not for everyone

Even though the benefits are substantial, the BURP strategy is not for everyone. Managers and leaders with self-esteem issues, subordinates who are seeking ways to exert influence over superiors and companies that are firmly rooted in traditional top-down management styles may find it difficult if not impossible to implement this strategy. Sometimes, the treatment is worse than the illness. Sometimes, it pays to leave well enough alone.

If, however, your company is one that values growth, embraces change and truly believes in the value of its’ employees, the BURP strategy bears consideration.

How do we get there?

Implementation of the BURP strategy requires a cultural change or (if you’re real fortunate) the acknowledgment that this culture already exists. Yes, I’ve seen companies where the strategy is in place but the benefits are not fully realized. Either way, this Bottom’s-Up strategy begins with a top-down approach. The following steps will get you on your way:

  • Most senior managers introduce strategy to direct reports and fine-tune the strategy
  • Most senior managers introduces the plan to all employees, seek buy-in
  • Each person to whom employees report has the responsibility to ensure that information/feedback is obtained on a scheduled basis
  • All subordinate employees are charged with the responsibility to provide information/feedback on a scheduled or as needed basis
  • A periodic review of information/feedback is conducted; conclusions are drawn, actions are scheduled and feedback is made available to all employees (serves as seeds for further discussion and information gathering)
  • Implementing the process may take some work, but it is well worth the effort. Increased effectiveness, efficiency, employee engagement, satisfaction… the list goes on. I’ll drink to that!

Photo credit: Shutterstock / pan_kung

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