Want a High Performance Organization?

by Jenkins, Eva Friday, January 28, 2005
Contact Us
Des Moines, IA
phone: 800-984-3775
Send email
About Us
For a while now we have been hearing a great deal about High Performance Organizations and High Performance Management and how achieving high performance will improve your business. In fact in today’s technologically advanced, global economy high performance is not an alternative it is a requirement for all businesses that want to prosper in the years to come. The terminology of high performance sounds pretty straightforward; if performance is at a peak then the business processes should follow suit and so then should productivity, profits, and competitiveness. Let’s investigate how it works.

How does business achieve high performance?

The standard methodology for achieving high performance within the workplace has been to breakaway from the traditional and highly structured model of business organization to one that is more organic and flexible. Within these organic systems managers are encouraged to create teams of employees who work together toward a common business goal. The teams are empowered to make decisions and solve problems, they monitor and improve their quality, and each individual employee is seen as a contributing business partner.

Utopia at last…people have meaningful work, employees are respected and trusted, creativity and innovation flourish, quality improves, and productivity reaches levels unheard of only months before. Yeah right!

So, what really happens? Why does the theory of High Performance so often get derailed when it is based on sound principles of human behavior and motivation?

The problem is not with the theory, it is in the execution!!! Our culture is so indentured to the traditional model of organization that, despite our best efforts, it is almost impossible to remove the vestiges of managerial control, division of labor, and the reams and reams of policies and procedures that trap employees into doing things one way, and one way only. When well-meaning executives, managers, and consultants get a hold of the notion of High Performance Management they often rush to create teams, write new job descriptions, set up feedback systems, and create elaborate reward and recognition programs all in an effort to convince their employees that they are valued and respected and that their contributions are meaningful and appreciated and will be rewarded.

Again, all sound notions but the problem is that these programs address only surface issues and they do not even begin to attack the traditional notions and customs that continue to prevail. Think of organizational dynamics like an iceberg where only 10% of the issues are visible on the surface and the bulk remains hidden and potentially menacing underneath. In truly High Performance workplaces managers do not have to “convince” employees that they are valued, the employees inherently know they are valued simply by the way the work is organized and performed.

So what’s wrong with this picture????

The organization that is trying to be High Performance is really no more than a traditional organization in disguise. It has adopted new terminology and is trying out some new human resource management techniques but the organization has NOT CHANGED the way that it approaches the system of working. Work is still narrowly defined and departmentalized and management is still controlling and directing the flow. On the surface it may sound like things have changed but the employees know they are doing exactly what they did before; except now, they are part of a “team” doing it.

Make a real transition using Human Capital Management (HCM)

The only way to move toward true High Performance is to adopt a system of Human Capital Management that helps measure and execute real changes in the way that human capital (resources) is managed. It starts with the realization and acknowledgement that your human, or intangible, capital is as important as your tangible capital and that like the tangible items, human capital needs to measured and accounted for on a consistent basis. Just as you want to keep your equipment in top shape so should you keep your people in top shape – ready and capable of performing the job they were hired to perform. Just as you seek investment opportunities for your financial capital to grow, so you need to invest in your human capital and provide them with opportunities to grow.

By attending and understanding the needs of your employees you allow them to perform to their capacity. This maximum capacity yields high productivity and that is when you truly have a High Performance organization.

High Performance is as critical as it is possible. It is a process that starts with philosophical change and ends with practical solutions that lead to substantial improvements in the way work is accomplished, the way work is perceived, and the amount of work that is achieved. Practicing effective Human Capital Management that encompasses how the entire organization runs and how it evaluates employee success, will create a natural link to High Performance Management that will see businesses emerge as healthy, prosperous, and highly competitive.