Building a high-performance culture in uncertain times

Rapidly changing technologies, aggressive competition and high consumer expectations are all convincing companies to change the way they do business globally. Performance indicators continue to shift. Business, as usual, is no longer acceptable. Forward-thinking organisations and nations alike are continuously exploring ways to drive high performance, achieve optimum value to enhance user experiences and increase […]

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Rapidly changing technologies, aggressive competition and high consumer expectations are all convincing companies to change the way they do business globally. Performance indicators continue to shift. Business, as usual, is no longer acceptable. Forward-thinking organisations and nations alike are continuously exploring ways to drive high performance, achieve optimum value to enhance user experiences and increase profit margins. Beyond the bottom line, high performance has become about inculcating a culture among teams to ensure that sustainable proactive improvement is driven throughout the organisation and sustained as part of a business’ or nation’s DNA.

According to the latest Global Competitive Report from the World Economic Forum, the top five best-performing countries include Singapore, United States, Hong Kong SAR, Netherlands and Switzerland. These countries have created an enabling environment to drive performance and have fostered human capital leveraging innovation ecosystems and the markets. Globally, the top five highest performers by market value include Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet (Google) and Berkshire Hathaway, with Facebook following closely behind, rounding out the top six performers.

These have one thing in common – their capability to innovate, optimise on their human capital. The Global Competitive Report cites limited capability to innovate as one of the reasons countries under perform.

Here are some lessons on building a high-performance culture
Building a compelling case for high-performance is a process that requires strategic thinking, planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation focused on alignment with an organisation’s vision.

A clearly articulated execution process committed and visible leadership, a problem-solving mindset, people excellence including an agile approach to the delivery of products, services and solutions form the critical pillars to building a high-performance culture – whether for an organisation or a country. In turn, change management which is the core competency plays a vital role in dealing with the people side of the change to achieve sustainable performance by internalising basic problem solving, engaging hearts and minds of colleagues throughout the journey to get buy-in and gain commitment to change ownership and acceptance.
The role of teams and leadership are equally important.

Defining behaviour changes and uncovering mindsets to unlock extraordinary business performance are dependent on both leaders and teams. Leaders must define the desired behaviours for their teams, to mobilise change and enable teams to deliver to the vision.

There is no case for improving systems where there is no team buy-in; because systems are driven by people; where people and systems are not aligned, organisations cannot meet their performance targets. Critical to the process is the need to ensure that people buy into whatever new processes are introduced to improve performance, and subsequently drive a high performing team and the creation of a high-performance culture thereof. And where teams fail, it reflects the failure of leadership; not only in organisations, in nations as well.

Creating a high-performance culture in distressful times: this is what businesses should consider:
1. Reset and realign processes and organisational structures – agility will allow teams to become flexible and responsive resulting in quick adaptations of mitigating the threats caused by this massive disruption.
2. Leveraging on the virtual and technological platforms – ensure the ability to fast-track the speed of change to achieve quick adaptation.
3. Continuous professional and leadership development – actively engage and empower leadership to excel in the execution of processes that deliver value to the customers’ sustainability.
4. Relentless – leaders need to create shared change purpose and a compelling case for change in alignment with the organisation’s directions.
5. Conduct periodic reviews to speed up performance and continuously provide feedback to ensure that colleagues are at ease and anxiety-free while ensuring frequent communication in various communications methods.
6. Conduct post-Covid-19 work from home reviews by capturing, and communicating the challenges, lesson learnt to avoid reoccurrence in the future as well as success stories of what worked for the business to thrive in the disruption. Then document every detail to update the business process that will assist to improve the operational capabilities.

Several tools exist to support strategies aimed at building a high-performance culture. Among them are performance measurement and monitoring tools as well as basic problem solving and root cause analysis tools; designed to identify gap areas within an organisation and establish areas of prioritisation for high performance. When institutions clearly understand their costs, their market, ability to reinvent to improve efficiencies, their digital needs and gaps in innovation, when they understand how to optimise their human capital, engage in realising value, internalise problem-solving, create and sustain a high-performance culture, with a committed and strong leadership to support improved processes to drive high performance, only then can they begin to thrive.

The use of monitoring and evaluation tools, including basic problem solving and root cause analysis tools are critical to the process. Real-time data and status reviews also provide a good measure for monitoring progress on high-performance interventions. These enable teams to identify areas that require refocusing and recovery action to take place.

Where change management is not embraced, leadership is not committed and communication is disjointed; topped by unrealistic targets and misalignment of the balance scorecard, the process is bound to fail.

High-performance strategies should be aligned with the operational model to achieve the desired outcomes.

Moses Petja is the Group Director for High Performance at Servest. The company employs 24,000 colleagues and is one of the largest integrated facilities management companies in Africa, with a presence in eight countries across the continent.

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