By Pam Lewis, DB & Associates
A myriad of empirical evidence and case studies clearly indicates that developing and sustaining high performance in an organisation is a learnt competence, and that it can be done successfully. However, there is also evidence to indicate that many organisations either completely fail in their efforts to sustain high performance behaviours and practices, or they learn hard lessons from initial failed attempts before getting it right.
The belief that ‘hard’ performance measures are enough to drive high performance pervades many organisations. Focus tends to be around system, task, talent, and motivation (transactional aspects of the organisation). In reality, it is the traditionally ‘soft’ measures of organisational culture (i.e. a shared belief in the need for high performance) that drives the ‘hard’ measures onwards and upwards.
For an organisation to realise exceptional business performance, high performance behaviours, and practices need to become self-sustaining across all functions and throughout all levels within a high-performance culture.
Creating a high-performance culture Culture includes shared beliefs that evolve over time, guiding behaviours within the organisation, and creating a culture of high performance from a transformational level.
When gaps appear in the requisite alignment between key success factors versus what is actually taking place ‘on the ground’, it becomes increasingly difficult for high performance behaviours and practices to become self-sustaining across the organisation.
There is a common theme with three main barriers appearing consistently:
Failure to align organisational vision, mission and strategies with current market realities
Specific high performance behaviours - results orientation, empowerment, responsiveness and accountability - are not clearly aligned with and integrated into the business strategy
Organisational systems and processes do not accurately support vision and strategy
Bridging the gaps By taking into account that every industry sector and organisation has its own peculiarities, the following provides some very general guidelines to the types of actions that could be taken to address five key gaps.
Gap 1: The external environment vs leadership It is not enough for leadership to create a clear strategy for the organisation. The robustness of this strategy needs to be constantly tested against the dynamism of the external environment, frequently re-examined, modified, and possibly re-created to meet the needs of constant change.
Gap 2: Leadership’s vision vs core purpose Once leaders have developed a clear appreciation of both the external and internal environment, they need to be able to shape a vision, create a mission, and develop goals which clearly align to it. Alignment between external needs and vision, mission, goals, and values of the organisation is critical to sustainable high performance.
Gap 3: Leaders’ actions vs core purpose When actions and/or behaviours and core values (such as service excellence or quality product) are not aligned, the result is confusion and frustration.
Gap 4: Leadership’s actions vs employee actions Developing a high-performance culture cannot be driven only from an operational level for real and sustainable change. Culture needs to be driven from the top with careful examination of actual current and future capabilities linked to the future requirements and strategic intent of the organisation, with clear competency frameworks, job profiles, skills development, talent management, and performance management systems in place.
Gap 5: Employee actions vs organisational infrastructure Infrastructure should not only be enabling, it also needs to align with the core values and goals of the organisation. This includes a thorough understanding of organisational resources and what capabilities are required to execute strategy, and ensuring that effective structures, systems, process, and procedures are in place to support the development and sustaining of high performance.
Challenging, yet so rewarding Sustaining high-performance behaviours and practices is not a simple process. However, by being aware of the gaps that appear from time to time between the various interlinking components of the open system of the organisation, it is possible to make careful diagnosis and plan appropriate actions and changes.
From an individual perspective, for people to maintain energy and sustained high performance, it is necessary for them to have someone to discuss their own levels of personal resilience, and to assist them with dealing with stressors (emotional and physical) and building motivation and confidence.
Professional coaching is one of the most effective ways to help people to develop strategies to deal with these stressors, and to developing support networks (systems and processes). DB & Associates’ experts can assist organisations with this. Simply get in touch and start creating a sustainable high-performance culture.
About the Author
Pam Lewis has 18 years of experience in organisational development across various industries. Her expertise extends to people, processes and systems in key areas of organisational analysis and design, talent management and capability assessment, and related project design and management. Pam now offers her wealth of expertise, knowledge and experience as an Associate at DB & Associates helping businesses deliver value, unlock potential and motivate individuals and teams towards personal and collective growth and success.