Guest article by Dr. Sanjeev Dixit – Global HR Leader, Ideapreneur and Author of highly acclaimed culture transformation book “PLAN C”.
“If culture eats strategy across all three meals, then the CEO serves those meals.”
Circa 2025, Headline of leading Global Newspaper reads “Many Bluechip & start-up companies world over closed down due to lack of High-Performance Culture”.
Achieving High Performance culture is & will be every CEO, Business & Human Resources leader utmost strategic priority but at the same time most taken for granted agenda. In order to achieve sustainable profitable growth, paradigm shift is needed from Execution led Plan A (Action) and Risk Management led Plan B (Back up) to High Performance, Values & Innovation led Plan C (Culture).
Culture Focused Strategy from Strategy-Driven Culture
Culture eats Strategy all three meals and meals are served by none other than the CEO. This is quoted by me in my recent culture transformation-oriented book titled PLAN C. This is very relevant as an organization is failing primarily because of being highly focused & obsessed with strategy execution and risk management. Organizations need to build Plan C to make Culture transformation as the core of all strategies and drive Organization growth by having Culture Vision to become an ideal organization by focusing on solving big business problems by addressing the root causes and not symptoms. Build Culture KPIs and review every month to achieve High-performance Culture step by step. This is going to very relevant especially when AI, Big data, Virtual reality, and robotics are making the work environment impersonal and the only differentiator between good & great organization will be the creation of a strong culture based ecosystem which fosters leveraging of strengths of human capital and achieving Business transformation through people transformation.
Middle Line Management Principle
The stereotyping of typical convention of organization success is TOPLINE & BOTTOMLINE growth. TOPLINE GROWTH is primarily focused on Revenue, sales, market share increase whereas BOTTOMLINE GROWTH is driven by profitability before or after tax, Gross net margin or contribution growth. Both Top line and Bottomline are outcome and results of multiple actions taken by CEO & Management including execution of strategies and growth plans.
What is missing in all these years of CEO & Board’s obsession of Top line and Bottomline growth is building similar plans & strategies for reinforcing MIDDLE LINE MANAGEMENT & GROWTH.
“MIDDLE LINE”!!! You have heard this term for the first time, Isn’t it!!
Middle line is primarily the core of any Organization’s growth by design and source of sustainability. Middle line denotes Organization’s & CEO’s belief, vision & mission, role modelling of Values oriented behaviors, Employee engagement & commitment leading to enhanced discretionary performance further translated into way of working & CULTURE.
If Organization is a body, then metaphorically TOPLINE is the HEAD, while BOTTOMLINE is the HEART but most importantly MIDDLELINE is the SOUL and if Soul of a body is high spirited, passionate and driven by the objective of building and leaving a better legacy then HEAD & HEART will be designed to be healthy and consistently high performing.
The approach & principle to consistently nourishing the Middle line enablers of the Organization is termed as MIDDLELINE MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLE.
The conclusion of my PhD work was also the established between the linkages between independent variables of MIDDLE LINE elements such as Organizational Values elements and Employee engagement outcomes with TOP LINE & BOTTOM LINE oriented Business Performance Indicators
Plan C as a Culture focused strategy approach basically motivate Organization leaders including CEOs, CHROs and CXOs to put C for Culture in the core of entire Organization & Business Visioning to thinking to designing to planning to strategizing to executing to reviewing. In nutshell, one need not drive business KPIs & targets but Culture to achieve high performance on sustainable basis.
Therefore, Plan C is an approach, leadership thinking and management mindset to focus and leverage on building, nurturing and leveraging the Culture of the Organization to achieve the desired outcomes & results. Plan C is much more impactful, profound and strategic than Plan A (Action orientation for immediate & visible outcomes & results) and Plan B (Backup Orientation for risk management/mitigation)
In order to leverage Plan C framework (as Illustrated in the below diagram) the focus is to go step by step in terms of doing the Culture benchmarking exercise to understand the current level of Culture and keeping in view the Culture growth plan, articulate the Culture Vision. In line with Culture Vision, prepare the blue print of Culture design for implementing the objectives of Culture Vision. Accordingly, Culture design needed to be broken down into SMART Culture Actions with measurable Key performance indicators. These Culture Actions and KPIs shall be measured on a monthly, quarterly and half yearly basis to ensure that there is a direct linkage and impact of achievement of Culture KPIs on Business performance indicators and in achieving the desired outcomes across different type of set ups whether start-ups, Small scale enterprise, Medium Scale enterprise, Government bodies & organizations, Multinationals or large conglomerates. Culture Improvement initiatives is to bridge the gap between the what was envisaged in the Culture design stage and outcome of Culture Reviews. This will ensure that Culture Vision is continually and consistently reinforced for Sustainable Business growth.