Winning. It's a place everyone wants to be, but few can actually claim. From sports to politics to school: high performing individuals make things happen. It's no different in business. You may already be an Executive of a high-performing company. Or you may be a competitor of one, always striving to hit that mark. So, what makes an organization a winner in terms of performance? From engagement of employees to leadership through all levels, there are certain qualities that define a high performance organization (HPO) from top to bottom. Let's take a further look.
Areas of Focus
Companies who hit the nail on the head in terms of top performance tend to focus on:
- Performance goals
- Employee engagement
- Philosophy about why and how people work
- Values-driven work culture
- Teamwork approach
- Efficient, effective processes that garner results
- Strategic organizational vision and execution
- Leadership throughout all levels
High performance organizations have been a subject of study for many years. In fact, the HPO Center has created an entire strategy to achieve it. They define a High Performance Organization as one that achieves financial and non-financial results that are far better than those of its peer group over five years or more through the focused discipline that truly impacts the organization. Research shows that there is a direct and positive correlation between certain factors and organizational results, despite which sector, industry or country you are in. They point out the five strands of success as being:
- Management quality
- Openness and action orientation
- Long-term orientation
- Continuous improvement and renewal
- Employee quality
By following these factors, organizations can vastly improve anything from revenue growth and profitability to Return on Investment (ROI) and Total Shareholder Return.
The Why's of Winning
In order to understand why high performing organizations are successful, it's important to take a look at the foundation of the whole concept of the organization and how it's run. It takes a holistic approach to bring a healthy foundation of knowledge and experience to complex systems, organizational culture and performance improvement. It also becomes necessary to challenge existing beliefs as to what truly makes a winning company, working from the inside out to build and sustain powerful change capabilities. Interaction within all levels of organizations must take place, as each level shares experiences and resources to stimulate further success. Examples of foundational principles that define this approach include:
Challenging the traditional belief that leadership happens only at the very top of the organization, leading to a redefined leadership structure that works at every single level of the company.
Reforming organizational systems, processes, and structures that have been weighed down by ingrained beliefs about how people work best.
Establishing a "performance of the whole" mindset.
Creating workable strategies for vision and values that incorporate both operational and cultural issues.
Using a diagnostic change model to improve current and established methods.
Harvard Business Review says the defining elements of a winning culture are built on a values-focused approach, a "working-together" spirit, employee empowerment, and a belief that "anything is possible." This is great in a perfect world, but many business leaders feel there is a disconnect between believing and doing. An HBR survey of 400 senior executives found that fewer than one in four felt that culture was effective in supporting business performance. Most of them expressed concern that their organization’s culture was far removed from what it took to win.
However, truly high-performing companies think about culture differently. They don't just look at it as making people feel good, included and valued, although that is a big part. They also embrace bottom line results wholeheartedly and unashamedly. The performance attributes that align with the company’s strategy and reinforce desired employee behaviors must involve:
- Focus on performance
- Winning oriented focus
- Adaptive behavior
- Collaborative teamwork
In the end, not all companies will display all attributes. But high performance ones will consistently hit three to four on that list every single time. Do YOU?