Some Basics for a High Performing Organization

Following, in a format intended for leaders, is a summary of some of the basics for a high performing organization in any of the sectors.

    • Understand the goal. Know what you want to accomplish, how it fits into a larger context, and how you will measure success.
    • Seek out and bring on the best talent you can find.
    • Put those people in positions where they will be able to use their abilities and perform at a high level. Make sure they have the tools, other resources, environment and an organizational culture that will enhance their performance.
      • It’s the leader’s job to make resources productive. This applies regardless of the leader’s title (e.g. CEO, director, manager, supervisor, coach, principal, superintendent, etc.). Every person and every organization will have strengths and weaknesses. Organize around and build on the strengths; make the weaknesses irrelevant. Never put a person in a position where a weakness of that individual would undermine prospects for success. Never set a person up to fail.
      • The leader should provide support, encouragement, coaching, feedback, constructive criticism when necessary, and should help each person continue to learn, grow, and develop. The leader might also need to help resolve problems and conflicts that arise, as well as know when to stay out of the way and let people learn from and grow from their experiences.
      • Crucial questions: Can the leader attract and keep top talent? Do really good people want to work for this person? Does this person help good people become even better?
        • As much as possible, people should seek positions where:

        • There is a good values fit.
        • They can substantially use their abilities.
        • They can learn and grow.
        • They are likely to enjoy the people they work with.

To what extent does the leader provide this kind of situation?

Align everything in the organization toward accomplishment of the goal.

      • Governance
      • Organizational structure
      • Resource development and allocation
      • Recruitment, hiring, and training
      • Leadership development
      • Performance reporting
      • Policies and practices
      • Internal and external communications functions

In addition, do everything possible to ensure that the organization’s internal bureaucracy functions as an enabler and not a hindrance to accomplishing the primary goals.

ALL of the above should be mutually reinforcing and MUST be aligned with the ultimate goal. If any significant factor is not aligned with the ultimate goal, high performance will not be possible.  As others have noted, most organizations are perfectly aligned for the results they are getting.

Finally, keep in mind that none of the above will be static.  As Collins and Porras pointed out in their book, Built to Last – Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, organizations that thrive, not merely survive, over long periods of time have constancy of purpose and a few core values.  But everything else – including everything on the above list – changes over time as new needs and opportunities arise, as people come and go, and as the external environment changes.