It’s neither, because it’s both.
As per this recent article in Industry Week that asks top down or bottom up, Continuous Improvement (CI) requires top-down executive and management support, but the improvement itself must be initiated at the ground-level by the day-to-day workers in the plants, the back-office, and the warehouse floor.
The key to improvement is to identify inefficiencies and fixes for those efficiencies. The best people to identify these inefficiencies are the people who use the systems and processes every day. Likewise, the best people to identify solutions are the people who will have to use those systems and processes every day. Although you may need to bring in a CI facilitator to help your teams unlock their creativity and identify the solutions that will improve your operational efficiency, true solutions will come from within.
And even if these solutions cause the organization take a short term hit on the balance sheet or P&L, a true improvement will deliver lasting impacts where working capital, cash flow, quality, and productivity are concerned.