I caught the end of a report recently which was talking about the difference between top-down organizational initiatives, and bottom-up. This is something that I’ve thought about for many years.

Back when I was in the corporate world, it bugged me that people would declare that the first step in doing something significant was to get an “executive sponsor.”

I understand the logic, but it’s also an excuse to blame inaction on someone else. You’ve disempowered yourself.

Instead, I’m a fan of:

  • Try something and see if it works
  • See if you can get a groundswell going
  • Even include managers in that groundswell

I’m not saying to be insubordinate or to make career-ending moves. But there’s typically a LOT of space between starting some conversations and taking the Big Leap.

This is where a discussion with your supervisor/manager/mentor can be really useful. Typically they’ll give you indications of whether something will fly with higher level people, and give you tips on how to make your pitch more successful.

A typical response might be that “we don’t have a budget for that.” You might take that as a complete shut-down, but it’s not. First, budgets are created by managers. And budgets have some flexibility in them, because nothing ever goes exactly to plan. And there’s a surprising number of things that don’t show up in budgets because the cost isn’t significant.

So this is telling you that there needs to be a financial justification. Fair enough. Use your manager’s experience to help you build one – you’ll learn a bunch, and it helps your manager figure out if they can get on board.

It wasn’t exactly a hard “no”, right?