How to Approach Performance Management Like the Pros

Which companies immediately come to mind when you hear the words “high-performance organization”? You’re likely thinking about organizations with soaring stock prices, who tout their ability to hire top talent, like Amazon, Google, and Apple. Or maybe you think about companies who, despite economic uncertainty and market changes, have withstood the test of time when their competitors failed, like Proctor and Gamble, General Electric, or 3M. But high performance organizations aren’t limited to historic market leaders or rising tech stars.

We may want a quick definition or info-graphic on What is Performance Management and how does it relate to HPOs? early in the article.  We changed the title to include this keyword but talk about HPOs almost exclusively throughout the rest of the article.

There are organizations at every size and in every industry that outperform their peers in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer loyalty, employee retention, and other critical business indicators. What powers organizations like these and what is a “high-performance culture”?  Let’s analyze what makes these organizations so different, and what can we learn from their success.

What do high-performance organizations do differently?

Countless studies have tried to capture the essence of high-performance organizations, and many leaders attempt to replicate what makes these organizations truly great. Although many researchers identify different reasons for industry-leading performance, they almost all agree: high-performance starts with the people within your organization and employee engagement.

From management to individual contributors, if your team isn’t on board with your high-performance ideals, or if you don’t have the people in place to execute the strategy, you probably won’t be able to get your performance management initiatives off the ground. Structural helps organizations visualize the capabilities of their employees, allowing them to delegate tasks more efficiently. Request your demo today to see how we can help you effectively manage your human capital.

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What are the key elements of performance management?

We’ve collected some of the best advice on how to find the right people strategy to reach your high-performance goals. We’ve also shared industry insights on how to create an organization that fosters effective performance management, in terms of growth and employee success in our webinar “Building a High-Performance Organization” featuring industry thought leaders, Chip House (COO, Structural) and Debra Jones (CEO, Performant Solutions). 

Here a few of the key takeaways:

People are your greatest asset in your quest for performance

In James C. Collins’ high-performance bestseller, Good to Great, he studies what enables a few organizations to transition from merely good to outpacing their competitors based on a number of success factors. Collins asserts that good is the enemy of great, and that there are three main factors that drive greatness: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. He makes it clear that without the right group of people, greatness will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, stating, 

“Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.”

High performance culture starts with highly productive managers

In his book What Makes a High Performance Organization: Five Factors of Competitive Advantage that Apply Worldwide, Dr. André de Waal asserts that one of the most important factors in a high-performance organization (HPO) is the quality of its management team. He stresses that managers at HPOs are “decisive, action-focused decision-makers avoid over-analysis and propose decisions and effective actions, while fostering action-taking by others.” He suggests if organizations hope to one day achieve industry leading results, they’ll need to start with a disciplined and results-focused management team.  

At high performance organizations there is trust in employees to get the work done.

A critical lesson from The Four Pillars of High Performance: How Robust Organizations Achieve Extraordinary Results by Paul C. Light is that high performance is deeply dependent on delegation.

Getting the right people assigned to the right projects, and trusting those people to make the right decisions for the project, set high-performance organizations apart from their competitors in almost every organization studied. “As much as 95 percent of the high performers gave their staff authority to make routine decisions on their own, compared with 65 percent of the mediocre performers and just 26 percent of the poor performers.”

The takeaway here is that if you delegate work without giving your employees the ability to own the decisions on how to best execute the tasks assigned, you aren’t really engaging in performance management at all.

In the modern high-performance organization, it’s about how you work, not where you work.

Global teams within high-performance organizations understand that the right people for a project may not always live in the same geographic location, and that working together in the same room is not always possible or feasible. 

However, according to The Handbook for High-Performance Virtual Teams, it’s still important to virtually support the success, recognition, and culture of teams no matter where they live or work.  “This support, which can be anticipated and planned, encompasses celebrations, check-ins, trust building, story creating, helping others, negotiating differences, and preventing problems.”

For high-performance teams, producing great outcomes requires the right technology to support virtual teams regardless of distance or location.

Learn more about how high-performance organizations differentiate themselves from the competition in our webinar, “Building a High-Performance Organization”.

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