Let Suggestions bypass the Line Manager

Whatever suggestion scheme or idea initiation events you implement, it is important to ensure that there is a facility for individuals to bypass their line manager if necessary.

Line managers can be resistant to ideas from their own people for a variety of reasons. They might fear that the person making the suggestion might be taken away from them to implement it. They might think that the idea does not reflect well on their department. They might see some implicit criticism of themselves in the suggestion. They might have political agendas or prejudices that lead them to block ideas coming from their team. If all ideas require initial sign-off by the first line manager then the flow of ideas will be inhibited in some areas.

When Lou Gerstner first took over the reins as CEO of IBM one of his first actions was to allow anyone, anywhere in the company to email him with ideas and suggestions. He received a flood of input – much of which gave him useful information on what the real problems were at the grass roots.

Sir Richard Branson has long had a policy that employees can bypass formal idea submission procedures and come straight to him with a business proposal if they are convinced it is the best route.

Allowing people to bypass the normal chain of command provides an essential safety valve that enables radical ideas to be viewed dispassionately at some distance from their source.

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2 comments to Let Suggestions bypass the Line Manager

  • there is a stronger version of this recommendation which we sometimes suggest to our clients: “let suggestions bypass anyone with a vested disinterest”.

    i use the term “vested disinterest” to mean the opposite of a vested interest, i.e. having an interest in something not happening. that may be line managers, but is very often engineers who are afraid of being blamed for the failure of a high-risk development task.

  • I think that who choose the bypass of the normal chain of command and when everyone knows the existence of such possibility have the guarantee of no bad brokerage upon their ideas.
    By the other hand he or she may be shy and with a help from the chain they arrived to the top.
    Nevertheless the first option is always better if we don`t want a killed idea or see our “child” with other parents.
    I think that, In SME`s, we can find another problem if we work as a team. Recognition and responsibility will be not well distributed if we use the bypass.
    I think it useful in that kind of organizations that some type of feedback would be allowed to the chain.
    Jose Baldaia