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Implementing the Lean and Agile Paradigm at Scale

Below, we will explore specifics of managing organizational and individual performance and development in such a culture.


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At the crux of business success is the performance of individuals, teams and the total organization. The ability to bring about desired behaviour change drives any attempt to create a performance culture, and below, we describe a core process for effecting such change. The tools we use in organizations — performance management, performance planning and development, performance appraisals — are all theoretically good.

Creating a High-Performance Organization

But in reality, they focus too much on the report card. They lack clear expectations, involve insufficient feedback and coaching, focus too much on weaknesses and gaps, provide little time for learning, and drown everyone in documenting things, often at year end. We have three suggestions:. It is not, if we compare our own experiences with the things we would like to see. Organizations as varied as financial services companies, government ministries and hospitals are increasingly paying attention to the effectiveness of their performance management and development systems to drive accountability for results.

A profound culture change is often involved. This requires coaching and implementation support as people become accustomed to a different way of managing, working and communicating. One financial services company offered multiple challenges and opportunities — a merger, a competitive imperative to strengthen the existing sales and service culture, and compelling survey input about gaps in management and staff communication.

The results, after a phased implementation, included faster-than-anticipated cultural integration as assessed internally and externally , positive survey feedback reflecting improved manager-employee communication, and support for the implementation of a successful customer intimacy strategy. The performance management process provided a foundation tool for a multi-level leadership development initiative.

Executive stakeholder feedback, corporate survey input, and bottom-line performance pointed to the value of focusing and aligning individual, unit and corporate goals, rigorously measuring and reporting of results, and strengthening management-staff relationships. They design and take accountability for managing service-oriented, efficient business processes and structures.

Leaders engage their people and work hard to learn their strengths and preferences. They manage their talent well and encourage ongoing learning. They communicate rigorously and often. In an effort to strengthen its regulatory effectiveness and external credibility, the agency had recently acquired new executive leadership. It was working on parallel tracks of clarifying its strategic intent and improving internal effectiveness and efficiency. The senior team created a new strategic framework outlining where they wanted to head, how they wanted to operate and what they wanted as their top priorities.

Creating High Performance Organizations

They searched in several jurisdictions and sectors for a range of best practices to inform their change journey. They reshaped their organization at the top and repositioned their corporate services groups to better serve the business by engaging intact and cross-functional teams in the change work.

Building blocks of a performance culture

Team members became resources for one another. Efforts to strengthen leadership and professional service capabilities were integrated into the change work. They devoted particular energy to improving communication effectiveness, knowledge management through technology, and collaborative team processes. The results were impressive. They included an improved strategic focus, leadership alignment and strengthened regulation as evidenced in visibly-reported cases.

In this example, tightly matching talent to task was a critical success factor, as was searching for best practices within and outside the sector. In highly effective performance cultures, people understand the importance of business analysis that is based on a rigorous examination of their exemplary performers. A search for innovative best practices is constant and these practices become the roadmap for others.

Best practices are not a list of competencies; rather they are specific activities that deliver results. The practices are articulated in a manner that creates immediate relevance and understanding. In looking at the evolving performance cultures in the above organizations, we saw leaders individually, whether in formal roles or informally, doing several things, more of the time and more effectively:.

Our research and experience tells us that most people want an opportunity to demonstrate their competence, to contribute and to learn. When given the chance to focus on what they are best at, they will deliver and surprise.

They want to work in organizations known for service excellence. They want to be listened to, respected and engaged in change. They want a life outside work. The degrees of need or preference will vary and they play out differently, but they are common to human development. Responding to them strengthens a performance culture. Human performance is the function of many influences: accountability, feedback, motivation, skills and knowledge, rewards and recognition.

These influences are interdependent. It is the combination of these factors that results in the desired performance and the associated leadership behaviours that support the performance culture. Creating a performance culture requires a systemic approach to managing the performance of organizations, teams and individuals. The benefits accrue to both individuals and the enterprise.

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Creating High Performance Organizations

Colbeck, Carol Colson, Thomas J. Cooper, Robert G. Cunningham, Robert A. Doshi, Viren Dotlich, David L. El Namaki, M. Endo, Takahiro Enns, Douglas J. Febbraro, Sam Feiner, Michael C. Geis, George T. Gelinas, Patrice Gentile, Mary C. Herman, Lawrence L.


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