Put simply, a high-performing organisation is a group of people working together effectively for a common purpose and goal. It’s a certainty that you know a high-performing organisation when you see one. There are clues all around.
Over close to 120 years, the New Zealand All Blacks have become renowned for pushing the limits of physical performance on the rugby field and upholding the honour of the team off it. Above all else, the All Blacks have developed a reputation for winning with a 76% winning record in test-match rugby and have secured more wins than losses against every test opponent.
In business, Disney built a reputation as a leader in customer experience, which has remained unchallenged for more than 60 years. In 2023, LEGO is unequivocally the most valuable toy brand in the world, with a brand value of over 7.4 billion U.S. dollars.
The list could go on.
But, the two key questions are this; What are their methods that guarantee their position in history as exemplars of best practice and enduring greatness? How have they built a high-performing organisation in their chosen field?
Five key components to building 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
Now, let’s explore each one in more detail…
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.
A compelling Vision/ Purpose…
…describes your unwavering goal for your business and why it exists in the first place.
…gives employees, partners, suppliers, and customers an emotional and intellectual connection with the business beyond its operational characteristics.
…acts as an essential reference point to check every decision you make before you make it.
Your 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.
#2 Values & Behaviours
Now, as you work around the clock-face at 15h00 is Values & Behaviours.
Your values & behaviours are the guiding principles that define you and your business. They determine how you will achieve your vision. They represent your way of being and the behaviours you want to see in yourself, each other and your stakeholders.
Your values should be designed as filters for sound judgement and quality decision-making. They are the moral compass of your standards, which drive your winning behaviours. Most business owners and leaders set values and behaviours without thinking enough about their real purpose. It’s vital to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, I mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them.
#3 Growth Plans
At 18h00 is growth plans, and in particular, your strategic growth plan.
A strategic plan is about ensuring you are in the driver’s seat of your business with a clear vision of where you want to get to, why you want to go there, and how you’re going to turn your vision into reality.
Having spent two decades working with business owners and leaders, I frequently ask one question: ‘What is your definition of strategy?’ And my experience is that everyone has a different definition, even members of the same leadership team and business!
My definition is ‘a changeable set of implementable actions that we frequently revisit and redefine according to shifting market conditions to achieve the organisation’s long-term aspiration.’
One thing is for certain: your strategy must be fluid because it will constantly be exposed to changing external and internal market conditions. We live in a world where the norm is a relentless pace of change, and strategy, by its nature, cannot be rigid.
#4 Empowered Execution
Empowered execution is how you deliver your vision and strategy through your people; how do you empower them?
Are colleagues trusted and encouraged to make decisions, take action, do the right thing and take the lead? Or is there a blame culture if things go wrong, and because of this, everyone is too scared to take the initiative?
You want to enable your people with the mindset, skillset and toolset to create the environment to do their best work so they feel empowered to execute against the plan.
#5 Performance Culture
Performance culture sits firmly at the epicentre of the high-performing organisation. Think of it as the central nervous system for your entire organisation. All the roads lead back to culture.
In its most simplistic form, culture is how you ‘do things around here.’ It’s how you and your people think, feel and act.
In organisations with strong cultures, people either fit in or they don’t. It’s as simple as that. It’s a very effective filter. The ultimate success measure in whether you have developed the right culture will be how proud your people are to wear your company badge.
High-performing organisation – final thoughts
Don’t get me wrong, building a high-performing organisation isn’t an overnight fix. It takes work, commitment and time. In a business with a Vision/Purpose, defined Values & Behaviours, and a strategic plan with a team of people empowered to execute, that right there is your performance culture in action. Working together, leading, leveraging and supporting each other, the power is in the ‘whole’.
The five components of a high-performing organisation working in unison will ensure accelerated and sustained business growth and high performance will become your reality.