Sustaining High Performance for Excellence

Sustaining High Performance for Excellence

The high performance of an organization is determined by how well it is meeting the expectations of its key stakeholders (customers, investors, employees, suppliers, regulatory authorities and the public). In the turbulent  environment which the organization has to undergo in its life span, creation and sustenance of high performance is always a challenge for the organization. There are many cases where  highly successful organizations of the past have failed to exist today or just have become an average performing organization.

The environment under which an organization operates undergoes a constant change and hence it calls for new approaches and processes by which change is to be addressed in the organization. The organization can succeed in the new environment only if it plays its role with competence and it focuses on using knowledge to guide its actions. The organization culture must be built to thrive in the performance in an environment of continuous change. It must have processes which are not only continuous evolutionary or incremental, but also continuous and transformational.

Though for sustaining high performance, the strategy, operational discipline, talented people are normally considered as essential requirements, but the key for the sustenance of high performance is the developmental culture of the organization which is not replicable outside the organization. The high performance culture of the organization must have a unique personality and soul which cannot be invented and imposed. The organizational character is to be discovered from within the organization based on shared value and heritage. The unique personality and soul of the organization must have high performance values and behaviors (Fig 1) such as high aspirations and a desire to win, external focus, think like owners, bias to actions, individuals who team, and passion and energy etc.

High performance values and behaviours

Fig 1 High performance values and behaviors of an organization

Sustaining performance is a never ending journey and it requires great stamina, resolve, and a commitment to the fundamentals by everyone in the organization.

In an increasingly complex environment of today, the organizations which is built on traditional assumptions of stability, equilibrium, alignment and predictability becomes more and more out of touch with its environment and hence becomes ineffective. The speed with which the organization is now called to change is becoming a big necessity. It requires the abandonment of past practices, the changing of core processes, and retuning of cultural commitments.

The sustenance of high performance in the organization is not a state to be achieved, but a perpetual movement. It is the willingness to be in action and to take on levels of broader consciousness. It is a challenge to the management principles of the day, warning of the complacency of organizations in environment of the present day. It is often suggested that the achievement of operational excellence is seemingly an end unto itself. The organization with operational excellence has the tendency to believe that it has achieved the high performance and in essence stop moving. It starts believing that the actions it has taken for reaching perceived achievement  is now well set and then the organization stands fast with the status quo that helped it to achieve success. This contradicts the reality of the turbulent environments the organization faces.

For sustaining the high performance the organization needs system wide change which has no beginning or end, but rather provides a new way of managing the organization so that it is able to survive in a world of constant change which is both transformational and continuous. The organization is to be adaptive and capable of repeatedly transforming and reinventing itself. There is to be a process of change in the organization based on dynamic movement and not simply the change management. The organization is to build and maintain capability for continuous change of its system.

Successful managing of change in the organization may require to deal with the contradictory forces. The perspective that forces are contradictory can stand in the way of change. However this inevitable struggle of opposite forces leads to successful change. For sustaining the high performance, management of the organization must have ability to use the skills needed to manage the opposite forces effectively.

The organization which sustains high performance does not search for the strategy, but is continuously strategizing. It does not attempt to find the organization design, but rather remains in an ongoing process of organizing. The sustaining high performing organization is need to have an active and dynamic discourse.

Pursuing the latest management fashion that is prevalent these days move around the ways needed for making an organization more efficient, more agile, more reengineered, or more whatever. But these ways do not address the fundamental need of the organization to change more quickly and effectively.

The sustainability of high performance is not a permanent state which is to be achieved  by the organization. Sustaining is not maintaining, but here it is a constant movement. This idea of sustainability as movement may appear to be a paradox  and may be considered as an impediment to progress. In fact there are three critical paradoxical movements which are important for the sustainability of high performance. They are namely (i) agility/consistency,  (ii) informative/inquiry, and  (iii) collective/individualism. The organization is to capitalize on these movements which are critical to its success towards sustenance of high performance.

The three movements themselves do not just represent a way by which the organization looks to sustain performance, but they encompass the central actions the organization can take to move performance forward. The organization is to ensure the transformation of these movements from potential roadblocks to a pathway for sustained success.

For sustaining high performance, the organization must understand the power of an almost unconscious, continuous, transformational and structured change process. There need to be an understanding of the relational nature of humanness  and dynamic balance, and include the recognition of unity in polarity. The organization must be in a state of dynamic balancing and ongoing interaction with respect to agility/consistency, informative/inquiry, and collective/ individualism.

The strength of agility/consistency (reflected by organizational culture) provides unwavering purpose and the ability to rapidly respond in a moment’s notice. The reach of informative/inquiry (reflected by organizational leadership) supports an internal dialogue that not only informs, but continually learns and supports the very ability of its counterparts to operate most effectively. The power of collective/individualism ( reflected by organizational people) enables strong individuals to interact and collaborate in powerful ways.

Agility/consistency represents both a focus on purpose and a balanced commitment to progress that provide people the ability to move toward moments of anxiety, but without fear. This movement represents the capacity to engage in the organizational efforts and to participate in guiding organizational outcomes not as contradictory to the purpose, but rather as contributing to the cause.

The key action for the sustenance of performance is challenging the status quo. The ability to challenge the status quo is reinforced by an environment that supports the efforts  of the people to try new things. There is a willingness to inform and share critical information and there is an openness to inquire, which is different than simply listening. It is the accessibility to leadership and the active gathering of input that brings leaders closer to the people. There is caring about people in the organization, which focuses on sincere interest in and respect for people across the organization. This fundamental action carries great weight in supporting the engagement of people in supporting performance. Further the seeking of the input and sharing of the information, is more than delivering communication. It represents the consistent effort to reach out to the people in the organization for their ideas, concerns, and contributions. These actions show willingness of the organization to change as required to be better, change what needs to be changed, and make the changes quickly. Management action towards this has a significant impact in generating the outcomes of sustained performance.

The movement of collective/individualism represents the powerful element of people in the organizations. This movement represents the polarities of ensuring the right people are part of the organization; people who are aligned with, understand, and are committed to the organizational values, purpose and direction; people who can serve as strong individual contributors, but who also recognize that in spite of individual strength they can most effectively contribute by using their individual strength in powerfully collaborating across individual and organizational boundaries. The perspective of the organization is to provide the framework for accomplishment to a collection of individuals (people). The idea of collaboration does not diminish individual contribution, but rather expands organizational capability. This movement is based upon the fundamental human principles of caring and commitment, directed not only at the organization and its customers but also with great focus on colleagues.

The sustaining of the high performance  makes the organization committed to the idea of getting the right people on board, but it is not limited to only the attraction and acquisition of talent. It also takes the organization to the next level of the commitment to each of those individuals with an investment in developmental opportunities. Connecting and caring is the next key action and is about providing the opportunity for people in the organization to connect with one another, weave a network (sometimes referred to as family) that is supportive even in the face of critical work demands. This action is about ensuring meeting of the basic needs, not as mandatory management action, but rather from a grounds well of collegial support. This is not to suggest that every individual will embrace one another in the organizational setting, but the data shows sustaining high performance is solidly grounded on the level of care shown for and among people across the organization, from outreach in moments of crisis to celebrations in moments of joy. The support for and encouragement of personal connection has a profound effect on the sustaining of performance.

There are certain practices that the organization need to implement for developing and sustaining a high performance. These practices are normally categorized under five areas of focus that enable organizations to (i) clarify the diversity/inclusion vision and leadership, (ii) align the systems, policies and procedures to support diversity/inclusion, (iii) foster an inclusive organizational culture, (iv) develop diversity/inclusion skills, and (v) develop a mindset that enables the organization to compete in a global environment.