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Archive for May, 2012

SC Online May 2012

High Performance Series Overview

There have been many studies of high performance and many models developed to describe the elements necessary to achieve high performance. Many of the texts on high performance describe high performance teams or high performance organizations or high performance workplaces and call out the attributes commonly associated with individuals or groups that out-perform some sort of norm. Before we go too far into specifics, let’s step back and put some basic definitions in place, starting with a very general view of performance.

Performance is a relative measure and is a comparison to a goal or more importantly, a set of goals. If the performance of a system is greater than goal, then there is high performance; if below goal, then there is lower performance. Pretty obvious.

Performance is a very scalable topic. You can measure performance vs. goal at an individual level and you can measure it all the way up to a large organization level, even though the absolute outputs of the two systems are dramatically different.

Goals come from various sources. At an individual level it can be very specific, e.g. increase signed customers compared to last year. For a small company, goals may focus on a larger metric like improved profitability, which involves not just customer count and increased revenues, but cost structure as well. For a large organization, the goals may be exceedingly complex and deal with many attributes of the business: grow revenue AND reduce costs AND enter new markets AND increase customer satisfaction AND improve employee morale.

Yet, no matter what the goals are or how they are set, successful businesses will have goals they are trying to accomplish, and they will focus on accomplishing them efficiently and effectively. A discussion of high performance eventually boils down this “efficiency and effectiveness” topic. Given a certain amount of effort/resources/dollars, are we accomplishing our goals and is the rate of progress sufficient to keep us in business?

Sharper Counsel LLC is an executive short term assignment company dedicated to the improvement of high potential businesses.  In short, we do BUSINESS TUNEUPS.

We provide management consulting to accomplish current business assessment and organizational assessment.  We specialize in business development consulting and are one of the top consulting firms in San Diego.  Our team is always eager to help you improve your business, so…

Give us a call today at 800-280-2452 !

High Performance Series: Individuals

There have been many studies of high performance and many models developed to describe the elements necessary to achieve high performance. In this article, one model is presented to describe critical requirements for high performance at the individual level. In this model, four elements are required to achieve high performance – perspective, autonomy, connection, and tone. These elements are described and examples are given to enhance the description. The essence of this four element high performance model is that if any of these elements are missing or degraded, high performance won’t occur and identifying and eliminating gaps in these performance factors can lead to higher achievement.

Perspective – this factor describes an individual’s understanding of how they fit into the world around them. People with good perspective will realize that the world turns on a 21st century technology base, there is an economic crises going on that evidently no one really knows how to solve, and the global population has huge discrepancies in resources, education, population density, and beliefs. People are actively engaged in real issues that affect real people and if they don’t have a broad perspective of their surroundings, they may make decisions and take actions that are out of context and not as powerful as possible.

Autonomy – this factor describes an individual’s ability to perform their role on their own. A person with high autonomy understands expectations across all of their roles / connections and can motivate themselves to deliver on those expectations. For example, a person understanding that they are a middle aged male in the working population and a husband / father to a family is critical for that person to deliver on expectations that contribute to their high performance. If something is amiss with their housing, they should fix the issue or at least get it fixed. If they have no means of generating income, they should go out and get a job. If a person is not able to operate autonomously, they will always be awaiting direction from others and will not accomplish as much as people that are self-starters.

Connection – this third factor describes an individual’s understanding of who they are and how they fit into society. People are social beings and need to relate to the people that surround them. A good understanding of role is required for a person to get along in the world. Using the stereotypical middle aged male head of household example again, there are things that need to be done to fulfill role destiny (e.g. supportive and parenting relationship with children…) and if these destinies are not achieved, there is not high performance. Similarly, role confusion can lead to dysfunction. For example, if a person is not a policeman they should not be arresting people and if they are not the Secretary of State they should not be negotiating treaties with foreign powers.

Tone – this fourth and final factor simply describes fitness and health. Basically, if a person is healthy, has an adequate diet and gets reasonable rest and exercise, they can rise to their potential as an individual. If they are ill or unhealthy for whatever reason, they will not rise to their greatest and will not operate with high performance.

As the model goes, individuals need to have perspective (I understand how my actions impact the world around me), autonomy (I know how and when to get things done), connection (my role and others roles), and tone (I’m healthy and fit). With high scores in these factors, they have the ability to achieve at their maximum potential. The model does not imply that when these elements are present, high performance is automatic. Just because a person is capable of a high level of contribution does not mean they will rise to that opportunity.

In fact, this model is most useful in identifying areas preventing an individual from performing to their potential and can provide insights into what to do to improve performance. If a person is unhealthy, they cannot get to high performance, so grapple with the health issue. If a person does not understand their role and how they should relate to those around them, basic socialization issues should be identified and improved. If a person cannot execute independently, work towards skill building and increasing self esteem can have a positive impact. And if a person really doesn’t understand how the world works, awareness building can lead to better decision making.

By understanding that there are four different elements that contribute to high performance, we can appreciate the complexity of improving individuals to be able to contribute at their highest potentials. This model can be used to build development plans for people so that they can unleash their inherent power.

Additionally, this model can be applied to teams, and in the next article, we explore perspective, autonomy, connection, and tone for groups and show how the model can provide insight for businesses as well as for individuals.

Sharper Counsel LLC is an executive short term assignment company dedicated to the improvement of high potential businesses.  In short, we do BUSINESS TUNEUPS.

We provide management consulting to accomplish business and organization assessments.  We specialize in business development and business process management and are one of the up and coming consulting firms in San Diego.  Our team is always eager to help you improve your business, so…

Give us a call today at 800-280-2452 !

High Performance Series: Groups

There have been many studies of high performance and many models developed to describe the elements necessary to achieve high performance. In the prior article, one model was presented to describe critical requirements for high performance at the individual level. In this article, the model is extended to a discussion of group performance.

Four elements are required to achieve high performance – perspective, autonomy, connection, and tone. These elements are described and examples are given to enhance the description. The essence of this four element high performance model is that if any of these elements are missing or degraded, high performance won’t occur and identifying and eliminating gaps in these performance factors can lead to higher achievement.

Perspective – at a group level this factor describes the team’s understanding of how they fit into the company. Groups with good perspective will be aware of the corporate mission, vision and periodic objectives. They will understand organization policy and how it applies to their work area. They can translate external factors like the economy into local decisions that improve the group performance relative to groups that ignore broader issues. A group without broad perspective of their surroundings may make decisions and take actions that de-optimize company performance as a whole.

Autonomy – at a group level this factor describes the team’s ability to perform their particular role independently of other teams. A group with high autonomy understands expectations across all of their roles and connections and can motivate themselves to deliver on those expectations. If a team is the software development group for a R&D lab, they should have full capabilities to architect, design, develop, test and release software. If they do not have a good software development platform, they should drive to obtain one. If a group is not able to operate autonomously, they will always be awaiting direction from others and will not accomplish as much as groups that are self-starters.

Connectedness – at a group level this third factor describes the team’s understanding of who they are and how they fit with adjacent groups. People are social beings and therefore groups have a social need to relate to their environment and the groups they interact with on a regular basis. A good understanding of the group role is required to accomplish team goals. Using the software example again, an understanding that the software team is one of several product development teams within the R&D lab is required for them to deliver on expectations that contribute to high performance. They must have their particular deliverables in mind, but they may have to depend on other groups around them to deliver on their goals to achieve a higher level objective. They also need to shy away from role confusion, e.g. they are not the Sales organization and shouldn’t be setting customer expectations on their own.

Tone – at a group level this fourth performance factor describes team health and teamwork. Basically, if a team is healthy and can work well with the other groups around them, they accomplish their goals without excessive conflict, contribute effectively to higher order goals and can rise to their potential as an team. If a team is dysfunctional and not able to get its own work done or is unable to work together with other teams, then high performance is not achieved.

As the model goes, groups need to have perspective (we understand how our actions impact the world around us), autonomy (we know when and how to get things done), connectedness (our role and others roles), and tone (we work together well as a team and with the groups around us). With high scores in these factors, they have the ability to achieve at their maximum potential. The theory does not imply that when these elements are present, high performance is automatic. Just because a group is capable of a high level of contribution does not mean they will rise to that opportunity.

In fact, this high performance model at the group level is useful in identifying areas preventing the team from performing to their potential and can provide insights into what to do to improve performance. If a group is unhealthy, they cannot get to high performance, so grapple with the team health issue. If a group really does not understand their role and how they should relate to those around them, basic job definition and project management issues should be identified and improved. If a group cannot execute independently, work towards skill building and improved leadership. If a group doesn’t understand how the company or industry works, awareness building can lead to better decision making.

By understanding that there are four different elements that contribute to high performance, we can appreciate the complexity of improving groups to be able to contribute at their highest potentials. This model can be used to build improvement plans for teams to help them operate at their highest level.

Sharper Counsel LLC is an executive short term assignment company dedicated to the improvement of high potential businesses.  In short, we do BUSINESS TUNEUPS.

We provide management consulting to accomplish business and organization assessments.  We specialize in business development and business process management and are one of the up and coming consulting firms in San Diego.  Our team is always eager to help you improve your business, so…

Give us a call today at 800-280-2452 !

Commitment Culture Series Overview

Organizations are living and breathing things, not just an org chart hanging on a wall or an office full of desks.  People drive the basic performance of an organization and help it or hinder it from operating at its highest potential.  Do you have a business that is awash with energy and enthusiasm and exceeding objectives time after time?  Or is your business being run by people that put in their hours and call it a day?

The difference between these two businesses has to do with many factors and at Sharper Counsel, we use a model we call “Commitment Culture” to describe various elements in an organization that have to do with people connecting to their jobs in exceptional ways to accomplish exceptional things.  Through studying a business and how it employs elements of a Commitment Culture, barriers to high performance can be removed and the full power of the people in the business can be unleashed.

Sharper Counsel’s Commitment Culture model consists of four items:

MISSION –           the same starting point as a Strategic Framework,
VISION –              a discussion of the business beyond current realities,
VALUES –            the look and feel of a business from a human perspective, and
CULTURE –          the manifestation of MISSION, VISION and VALUES from day to day.

The MISSION is a key enabler to achieve high performance in that the people in the business need to understand and believe in the basic purpose of the organization.  If you are running a lumber mill and your employees don’t believe in cutting down trees, you will struggle to achieve high performance.  Most often, people self-select and choose to work in businesses where they appreciate the MISSION.  But sometimes not, especially when jobs are hard to come by, and it’s worthwhile to ensure that your team knows the business MISSION and supports it.

The VISION of an organization is also a key enabler to high performance and talks more to what could be than what is.  You may be running a lumber mill and if you aspire to become a leader in your industry through reducing carbon footprint, that speaks to goals that are larger than the current week or current quarter.  Maybe you have ideas about being the most competitive lumber mill in a certain market segment so that good jobs can be retained in your community.  That’s important information for people to have and helps them connect to the business and become more engaged in day to day activities.

The VALUES of an organization describe in large degree how a business conducts itself.  How does the business behave in particular circumstances and what does it feel like to an employee inside the business?  Describing the VALUES of the organization and ensuring that the team behaves according to them helps people understand what to do when situations arise.  A solid set of VALUES help people align with the goals of the business as well as do their jobs independently with high confidence that they are doing the right things.

MISSION, VISION and VALUES all work in concert to build the CULTURE of the business.  Defining and managing to a MISSION that makes sense, a VISION that is engaging and inspiring, and VALUES that present an attractive business personality creates a CULTURE that drives high performance.

A business will have a CULTURE in any event.  If it is a result of evolution, unclear direction and random behaviors, the CULTURE may be holding a business from its highest potential.  If the CULTURE is a deliberate design of business purpose, ultimate outcomes and supporting action, then the business may create a Commitment Culture that allows people to contribute to their utmost and the business to operate at its highest potential.

Sharper Counsel LLC is an executive short term assignment company dedicated to the improvement of high potential businesses.  In short, we do BUSINESS TUNEUPS.

We provide management consulting to accomplish business and organization assessments.  We specialize in business development and business process management and are one of the up and coming consulting firms in San Diego.  Our team is always eager to help you improve your business, so…

Give us a call today at 800-280-2452 !

SHARPER COUNSEL

Sharper Counsel LLC is an executive short term assignment company dedicated to the improvement of high potential businesses.

In short, we do BUSINESS TUNEUPS.

We provide management consulting to accomplish business and organization assessments. We specialize in business development and business process management and are one of the up and coming consulting firms in San Diego. Our team is always eager to help you improve your business, so...

Give us a call today at 800.280.2452