High Performance Through Top-down and Bottom-up Work Management



If you recall, the scenario presented in our previous post resulted in a few questions:

What determines if an organization should use top-down or bottom-up planning methods, or how to integrate both methods?

What determines if an organization should use top-down or bottom-up planning methods, or how to integrate both methods?

How to develop an end-to-end process that covers both the planning and execution phases of work management. 

What actions can an organization take to mitigate ongoing issues that have been identified as adversely impacting a work/resource management plan?


Top-down planning is a bit like a fixed bus schedule – proactive planning results in that the same number of busses are going to stop at each point on a route regardless of if anyone is waiting for a ride. Bottom-up planning is a bit like a ride sharing service – the volume of available cars is reactive and responds to changes in rider demand. When they are used individually, it’s inevitable that someone will be left waiting at the curb for a ride, and somewhere else there will be an empty bus or car looking for a passenger. If the two methods are combined, however, chances are good both situations will be few and far between. So, which is best for your organization?

In the utility world, it is rare that one model is always the right choice. The reality is that a combination of both methods is key to high performing work and resource management. Top-down planning is critical to establish what work needs to be performed and define key parameters such as critical milestones and budget expectations. Bottom-up planning is key to planning the most efficient and economical approach to meeting those parameters, and even more critically, determining they can be met.

Integrating these two methods is no easy feat and requires a careful examination of your organization needs and current abilities, such as:

Goal prioritization: What are the most important outcomes that you wish to achieve from your work and resource management program? Meeting financial and schedule targets are usually at the top of the list, but other considerations may be customer satisfaction, resource utilization targets, and territory expansion. Defining these goals, prioritizing them, and understanding they can change is a key first step.

Tolerance for risk: Your organization’s willingness, or lack thereof, to accept risk will influence the aggressiveness and level of flexibility/response that your work and resource management systems will need to have.

Resource availability and restrictions: Identify the bottlenecks and crucial resources that are utilized during the work and the amount of control you have over them.

Management systems: The willingness and ability of critical stakeholders to take ownership of their role in the system. Evaluate if existing management systems are capable of developing and adopting new systems.

Of course, these needs and abilities are going to vary for every organization or company – the key is that a thorough review and understanding of them defines the starting point for an integrated resource management plan.

One may look at this starting point as a foundation – but it’s really the center pivot of a circle. As your organization progresses through process development, it will quickly become apparent that integrating top-down and bottom up systems will result in a process loop. Many companies are in the search for an end point, and struggle adopting the idea that even when a project or program is complete, those resource need go back into the planning cycle. High performing organizations recognize that by utilizing a process that encompasses both incoming (future) work along with input and feedback from the teams executing current work is critical to maximizing utilization and minimizing inefficiencies. In many regards it is quite similar to Just-in-time inventory management used in manufacturing environment. It is a matter of having a baseline production plan with both a schedule and resource allocation, and continually tracking and evaluating performance of the work to adapt to factors that influence the production cycle.

In the future we will dive into a bit more detail of the day-to-day management utilizing these integrated planning systems.