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Wednesday 16th May 2018

How to build a high performing organisation

It’s a certainty that you know a high performing organisation when you see one, and having worked with tens of thousands of businesses across a multitude of sectors, enterprises and governments I’ve identified 5 surefire methods to build a high performing organisation.

high performing organisation

How to build a high performing organisation

It’s a certainty that you know a high performing organisation when you see one. There are clues all around.

New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Team have won 86% of their games in recent years. Manchester United Football Club in its heyday constantly vexed its opponents by winning games often with a goal scored in extra time.

In business, Disney built a reputation as leader in customer experience, which has remained unchallenged for more than 60 years. LEGO® is the second biggest toymaker in the world, with a respected and loved global brand that has remained popular for nearly 70 years.

The list could go on.

But, the two key questions are this; What are their methods that guarantees their position in history as exemplars of best practice and enduring greatness?  How have they built a high performing organisation in their chosen field?

Having worked with tens of thousands of businesses across a multitude of sectors, enterprises and governments I’ve identified 5 surefire methods to build a high performing organisation.

#1 A Vision / Purpose to infuse work with purpose and meaning

#2 A set of Values & Behaviours to propel you towards your goal

#3 A clear Strategic Plan laying out your goals, priorities and direction of travel

#4 Being disciplined in the execution of the plan

#5 A performance culture at the heart of the organisation

Over the next few weeks I’m going to talk about each one in turn starting this week with Vision / Purpose…

#1 Vision/Purpose

If you imagine the high performing organisation model as a clock- face, at 12h00 is Vision/Purpose, the starting point of your thinking when building a high performing organisation.

high performing organisation

A compelling Vision/ Purpose describes your unwavering goal for your business and why it exists in the first place:

  • Giving employees, partners, suppliers, and customers an emotional and intellectual connection with the business beyond its operational characteristics
  • Acting as an important reference point to check every decision you make, before you make it.

In a very real sense, your compelling Vision/Purpose is your North Star; in good times it can focus the business, reinforcing the goal and ambition; in tough times, it offers an inspirational focal point to keep pushing on, in the knowledge that you’re pursuing a goal worth achieving.

high performing organisation

The ability to focus is critical for success.

It’s too easy to be distracted by the next opportunity, the next million-pound idea. Most people are better at dreaming up new ideas than making them a reality, and if you’re not focused, there is an inherent risk of being known as a great thinker, or even visionary, who never made anything happen.

As the saying goes: Where focus goes energy flows.

Without focus, you’re like Alice asking advice of the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ asked Alice.

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where,’ said Alice.

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat. ‘– so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’

In simple terms, too many businesses set off on a journey into the future without first painting a clear picture of where it is they want to get to, and in the end they take a route that looks like a squiggly line.

Visionary leaders, on the other hand, have the ability to transport themselves into the future in their mind, create clarity on what it looks like, feels like, and acts like, and then, coming back to today, translate their vision into a meaningful story for their people. And in the process, they define a fast track pathway in order to get there.

Their pathway is defined like a set of railway tracks, knowing that if they do veer off course, with a clear destination point they can quickly take corrective action.

Your role as the Chief Storyteller

Among your responsibilities is the need to connect your people with your story, your vision and purpose for your business. In doing so, you create meaning to what they do and how they do it, so they can find their own compelling reason to feel inspired, energised, and motivated to deliver their best work.

If you asked a cross-section of your team to describe the Vision/ Purpose of your organisation, would they be able to articulate it?

What if you asked them the part they played in turning that Vision/Purpose into reality, what would their answer be?

A compelling Vision/Purpose must accomplish three things:

  1. Specify Aspiration: a long-term achievement that the organisation is striving for
  2. Offer Inspiration: captivating the organisation onward and upward
  3. Invite Perspiration: showing colleagues how their contribution turns the Vision/Purpose into reality.

Some of the most iconic, most successful organisations are built on a strong, compelling Vision/Purpose:

Nike: ‘To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world’ *If you have a body, you are an athlete.

Google: ‘Changing the way the world communicates one click at a time!’

DHL: ‘The logistics company for the world’

United Nations: ‘Meeting the needs of the present without com- promising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’

New Zealand All Blacks: ‘Inspiring and Unifying New Zealanders’ LEGO®: ‘Inventing the future of play’.

What do all the above Vision/Purpose statements have in common?

  1. They belong to phenomenally successful organisations which have stood the test of time and delivered both accelerated and sustained growth.
  2. They all started as an idea. No matter how big or small your business is today, it has the potential to achieve enduring greatness.
  3. They pass the test of specifying aspiration, offering inspiration, and inviting perspiration.
  4. They are short, use dynamic, active language, and are memorable.

Once created, your role as the Chief Storyteller is to safeguard your Vision/Purpose. Protect it from becoming passive; promote it so that it becomes active and truly living in your organisation, through your people.

landing change

Your Vision/Purpose in ACTION

The Vision/Purpose is usually displayed in foyers behind reception and provides the first impression of what you stand for. Leaders can walk around the office and ask any colleague what part they have played today in turning the Vision/Purpose into reality and receive an instant compelling answer.

It’s the signature template on your emails. It’s the home page of your website, your shop window to the world. It’s referenced at the start of every internal meeting as part of the rules of engagement. It’s central to every performance conversation with colleagues and employees.

It’s no good just creating a compelling Vision/Purpose and thinking ‘job done, what’s next?’

In your pursuit of excellence and your vision of building a high performing organisation, you must be tireless about positive reinforcement, articulation, and alignment of everything the organisation does on a daily basis. These small steps daily build into giant leaps towards your North Star.

This is your compelling Vision/Purpose in action!

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