Toward Middle Up-down Management: Accelerating Information Creation. MIT Sloan Management Review
THE CONCEPTS of "top-down" and "bottom-up" management pervade management research and the popular business literature. Both center on information flow and information processing. Top-down management emphasizes the process of implementing and refining decisions made by top management as they are transmitted to the lower levels of the organization. Bottom-up management emphasizes the influence of information coming up from lower levels on management decision making. The management styles of individual firms are usually seen as located somewhere on the continuum between these two types.
However, organizations must not only process information; they must also create it. If we look closely at R&D activities, we find a pattern in some firms that does not fit on the continuum between top-down and bottom-up. It is a process that resolves the contradiction between the visionary but abstract concepts of top management and the experience-grounded concepts originating on the shopfloor by assigning a more central role to middle managers. This process, which is particularly well suited to the age of fierce market competition and rapid technological change, I call middle-up-down management. The development of the Honda "City" exemplifies this management style.