Often when I work with groups, we start by talking about our collective experience in awesome organizations vs. really bad ones. It doesn’t take long to come up with a list of characteristics of organizations in chaos. Common aspects are: lack of vision, no teamwork and poor innovation; constantly shifting priorities; always working in crisis mode; and short-term focus. For technical organizations in chaos, there seems to be plenty of great ideas and technology but little understanding of how to inspire and empower people to move those ideas and technology forward.
As a scientist, I’d heard of high-performance computing, high performance vacuum systems and high-performance engines but high-performance organization was not part of the language. Yet, I understood the experience of being in an organization in chaos. I felt it. It was an invisible yoke that prevented my colleagues and I from delivering disruptive ideas and technology. It was the unspoken rules of “we’ve always done it this way” and “that’s just not X way.” I watched my peers become complacent and witnessed talented technical professionals become disengaged and even swallowed by toxic behavior. Such a waste. Total garbage.
So what is a high-performance organization? And how does it differ from an organization steeped in chaos and/or focused on traditional command and control tactics? In the most basic sense, a high-performance organization is one where every person is a contributing partner in the organization. Not a headcount, tool or resource, a contributing partner. The 7 principles of high-performance are:
1. Shared Purpose
The mission and values of the organization are clearly defined and understood by all. They serve as a guideline for decision making and performance. In contrast, in a traditional organization, jobs tend to be specialized, repetitive and routine. This makes training and controlling workers easier.
People are viewed as partners in the business – partners who want to contribute if given the opportunity to do so. Employees are empowered by information, training, resources, authority and support to solve problems, make decisions and be fully responsible for their part of the business. In a traditional organization, there is one way to do a job and workers should not deviate from it.
3. Holistic View
Work is designed in a way that allows people to do meaningful work and be responsible for “whole tasks or processes.” All aspects of work are integrated into the larger total work system. Multi-functional teams are responsible for the achievement of business goals through work. In contrast, a traditional organization focuses on grouping workers by job, skill, product or business. They become loyal to their group but don’t see the bigger picture.
4. Structure Fits Organization’s Purpose
All aspects of the organization’s design, including formal structure, workflow processes, and systems, are aligned with each other and the strategy, mission, and goals of the organization. Traditional, command and control organizations hold decision-making at the top often resulting in bureaucracy, inefficiency and inflexibility.
5. Developmental Management Role
The role of management changes from controlling workers to coaching, providing resources, and managing the environment to create effectiveness in employees.
6. Customer Focus
Customer service is one of the most important principles of high-performance. Everything is evaluated by that criterion. There is significant awareness of external AND internal customer requirements and a continual dialogue between groups.
7. Continuous Learning
Organizations that get ahead and stay there are constantly learning new skills and continually enhancing their capabilities. Developing employees is viewed as an investment in the organization rather than an expense for a chosen few.
Do you recognize these principles in your organization?
“To add value to others, one must first value others.” -John C. Maxwell
Download our FREE 7 Principles of High Performance Organizations handout to share with your organization!