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Transforming to a High Performance Culture

Article written by Shaun Small. 

​The importance of corporate culture cannot be overstated. It provides guidelines and boundaries and signals to every employee the kind of behavior that is appropriate, valuable or discouraged. In addition, it gives a cohesive identity to the workplace and focuses resources and energy. Most importantly, it is the key determinant of organizational behavior and fundamentally affects the ability to which strategy is translated into performance.  Are you looking to transform to a High Performance Organization?  Read on for 5 factors that are critical on the journey.  Accountability

A culture of accountability is a performance-driven environment. This is characterized by three key practices:

  • Expectations around personal performance and behavior are clear

  • Exceptional performance is recognized, reinforced and appropriately rewarded

  • Performance problems, including the failure to meet one’s commitments, are addressed quickly and fairly.

A clear and unwavering commitment to excellence in performance management is a priority. Through performance differentiation, communication, and collaboration, we can create a culture of accountability. By holding employees accountable to their objectives, and implementing robust performance management practices to develop our employees, managers and leaders, we can ensure that accountability is not seen as a ‘bad word’ but rather as a way to enhance commitment and ultimately performance. To change the orientation across the organization, we must successfully tie performance to rewards. When a clear link between accountability to objectives, and performance-based rewards is drawn, employees will see accountability as opportunity. Externally-Focused

Companies with high performance cultures promote the ability to focus on the ‘critical few’ priorities that make the biggest impact including beating competitors, satisfying customers, and caring for communities. This means that employees understand the nature of the business, and the competitive landscape in which their organization competes. This leads them to determine between competing priorities, and take decisive action. Communication

Communication in the midst of change, along with leadership, may be the most important aspect on which to focus. John Kotter, the preeminent change and management theorist, posits that one should use EVERY possible means to communicate the new vision and strategy. The price of under communication is confusion, frustration, and disengagement. Would the General of an army risk under communicating the battle plan to the troops? 

Planned communications are needed to ensure that employees are clear about the rationale for the changes being made, the interventions that are deployed and the expectations regarding their role and where they can go to express their concerns or ask questions. Change does not take place in a vacuum. The same way a rock thrown into a lake creates ripples, so does change in an organization. To effect one piece of the organization, is to affect the entire organization. Alignment & Collaboration

Broad participation is critical to developing ownership of, and commitment to, change. More than any other element of organizational change, creating a high-performance culture requires the engagement of practically everyone in the organization. A collaborative environment is one in which all team members feel that their point of view and their ideas are welcomed and of value, but also feel an obligation to consistently participate fully and candidly. This not only engenders deep commitment to the organization, but unleashes synergies and a competitive advantage created by leveraging the sum total of your organization’s mental horsepower.

Leadership must align the organization behind a compelling vision of the future. The importance of executive leadership in any change effort cannot be overstated. In a culture change effort, effective leadership may be the most crucial and decisive factor in its success or failure. Leadership must ‘walk the talk’, align with each other, and behind the vision. Organizational leadership must communicate the message and model the intended behaviors for the organization to see. No other group will be watched as closely, and with as much impact. Empowerment & Execution

A strong culture supports empowerment of employees. Companies with strong culture provide continuity and clarity with respect to their mission, vision and values. They minimize mixed signals because they have reduced the ambiguity in their communication, as leadership communicates with one voice. Strong cultures also have a central core of consistency that drives the basic decision-making processes throughout the organization. Summary

There are many touch points and levers that drive successful culture change - Accountability, maintaining an External Focus, Alignment & Collaboration, Communication, Empowerment & Execution. Given the immense importance of culture, it is certain that the implications of a half-baked transformation effort can be disastrous, not only for the culture, but for the financial performance of the organization. The transformation process must begin in earnest, with the full engagement and participation of executive management. In fact, the single most important factor in successful culture change is institutional leadership. Successful CEOs and senior executives must pour an immense amount of personal time and energy into articulating, communicating and reinforcing the necessary changes, or be counted among those who severely disrupt their organization, and fail in their attempts.

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