Above The Line: How To Create A Company Culture That Engages Employees, Delights Customers And Delivers Results by Michael Henderson
Wiley, 2014, RRP: $29.95
This well-structured book delivers on plans for cultural analysis and change.
To commence a piece of work primarily about company culture with the statement, “organisations don’t like people” didn’t seem to me to be a real winner. Where does that thinking belong?
But effectively the author, Michael Henderson, is saying that the individuality of humans has to be aligned within organisations. Therefore HR systems, measurement, structure, policies and employment conditions, etc are developed to show that they, the humans, are not really trusted.
His argument is based on the above processes being a place to which organisations have drifted – not where they started. Where does he take all this?
Alignment of human beings by organisations across the spectrum of customers, employees, stakeholders and shareholders is where he wants to see organisations arrive.
To that end he postulates that an ‘above the line culture’ is one where all people connected with the organisation create a culture totally positive in its outlook.
The book has four elements in its framework:
- Part one: understanding culture
- Part two: above the line culture
- Part three: elevating culture
- Part four: culture planning
So is it valuable to the HR and management fraternity? The book offers good frameworks for change, both culturally and structurally.
Examples are offered that align both core elements of culture, and their respective places within the framework he cites, of below and above the line. These do serve to clarify his thinking and also the values to be gained from above the line positioning.
It is when he offers examples of a healthy culture and its effect on customer service, workplace energy, organisation enhancement and even leadership that the book seems to come to life.
The separation between above and below the line cultural variants offer good observations and can draw us to utilise these in whole and in part as we in turn carefully to look at our own workplaces and experiences.
Old and new concepts
Much of the material has been seen before across a plethora of similar books but this book offers a separation of cultural strengths and weaknesses that would certainly be useful in planning a cultural change strategy.
The book also offers a good culture plan that is well designed.
There is some really good content and thinking in this book. The introduction, while to a degree possibly written to gain our attention quickly, did not work for me.
The author also has written in a US consulting-style designed, perhaps, to sell his wares and books, and this seems overdone to me.
Its application strengths would be in planning around cultural analysis and change.