3 steps to building a genuine high-performance culture

3 steps to building a high-performance culture

There are three important areas organisations need to focus on in assessing and developing a genuine culture of high performance, writes Joydeep Hor

One of my more-often used introductory questions when running leadership programs for business leaders wanting to introduce a high-performance culture in their organisation is to ask how many people want a high-performance culture in their organisations.

Unsurprisingly, everyone puts their hand up, to which I say “Well you don’t often hear people say they want a low performing culture or that a mediocre performing culture is okay for them!”. So it is absolutely the case that most organisations want a high-performance culture in their organisation but unfortunately have little idea as to what they need to do to get there.

What is a high-performance culture?
A high-performance culture is not the same as a culture that allows high-performers to succeed or excel. Nor is it a culture where everyone in the organisation is a high performer. Rather, a high-performance culture exists in an organisation where there is a commitment at all levels to ensuring that all aspects of the organisation’s infrastructure demonstrate the need for excellence. It is the antithesis of a high-performance culture where an organisation and its people are focused on “getting the job done”.

And organisations need to find a way that allows them to measure whether they have a high-performance culture in a manner that is detached from “knowing when it’s not there”. In other words, if we say we don’t have a high-performance culture because we are noticing an absence of it then we will probably struggle to implement it.

“Most organisations want a high-performance culture in their organisation but unfortunately have little idea as to what they need to do to get there”

A framework for high-performance
When working with organisations around introducing a high-performance culture, I use a simple “V-S-C” framework. Simply put, an organisation needs to assess the performance culture across its:

  1. Vision and values,
  2. Systems and structures, and
  3. Capability and credibility

Vision and values
In the absence of a clearly-articulated commitment to high-performance as part of your organisation’s mission statement (or vision) and the replication of that into your values or principles, it is hard to see performance culture being given the weight that it warrants recognising that that would at best be only the beginning.

Systems and structures
We know that organisations for much of the past few decades have placed too much reliance on their annual performance appraisal processes as the primary forum in which performance related matters are addressed with staff. While that is a system it is only one system. What about your induction and onboarding procedures? How well thought through are your contracts and position descriptions? How do you set people up for success in your organisation? How robust are your performance management strategies and how well-educated are your managers and leaders when it comes to having difficult conversations?

“All the systems in the world will only be as good as the people employed or engaged to give effect to those systems and structures”

Credibility and capability
All the systems in the world will only be as good as the people employed or engaged to give effect to those systems and structures. Having people, senior leaders (and indeed all leaders) with the right capability to lead and manage performance (and even inspire high-performance) is essential.

However, even with highly-capable leaders and managers, organisations need to regularly watch out for these individuals having the necessary “credibility” within the rest of the organisation. Do they walk the talk? Are they themselves performing in the manner that resonates with the high-performance mantra?

Key high-performance culture building tips for HR

  1. If your organisation is serious about introducing a high-performance culture it needs to do more than pay lip-service to it. It in fact needs to be very clear in its narrative around what a high-performance culture looks like and what it translates into for all of your organisation’s people.
  2. Using an audit framework to assess how your organisation is sitting as against a high-performance culture is eminently doable. I suggest using a V-S-C model whereby you can look at high-performance across vision and values, systems and structures, credibility and capability as being an approachable framework.
  3. Continuous measurement as against your high-performance culture metrics is important. Try to measure it in the positive as opposed to in the negative. In other words, don’t measure your performance culture by what is not there but look at what is there. And don’t confuse what might seem to be recurrent themes and issues in your organisation with your “culture”.

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