High Performance Management

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.Management


There are six common blind spots that cause poor organizational performance, and are capable of bringing down an entire company. None of them are “set it and forget it” issues. All require constant attention.

High performance organizations continuously evaluate their effectiveness in these six areas. Those that are consistently attentive have demonstrated long runs of market dominance. What are companies like IBM, Southwest, and Toyota doing at their best to implement high performance management that the rest of us could learn from?

Make sure your roadmap is crystal clear – and not just to your leadership team. Your organization’s mission and values must be clearly defined. Your vision, strategy, and executional targets must be shared by all staff or priorities become confused. You end up with silos working against one another rather than collaborating for the common good.

Be a disciplined and engaged leader. Problem solving in today’s light-speed business environment is a collaborative effort. Top-down leadership simply is not fast or flexible enough. People are looking for decisiveness, but they also expect to be active participants in crafting solutions. Honest problem-solving dialogues invite a variety of viewpoints in the quest for optimal solutions. High performance leaders must walk a delicate line between providing appropriate direction without squashing creativity on the one hand, and leading by exception without leaving a leadership vacuum on the other.

Surround yourself with a capable leadership team. Your leadership team must be not only technically capable but must think and act strategically. Do they focus their time appropriately on the most urgent organizational issues? Do they communicate and work well together as an integrated unit or do they tend to separate into silos? Do they have the executive presence necessary to their stature in the organization?

Pursue continuous leadership development. Every high performance organization invests in constantly elevating the performance of key talent, including high potentials who will become the next leaders. While technical knowledge is important, many organizations overlook the critical impact of helping their leaders develop such “soft skills” as negotiation and conflict resolution. They also need to hone the emotional intelligence required to tailor their management strategies to the needs of specific teams and individuals.

Develop lateral coordination and collaboration across key activities supporting effective execution. An amazing amount of productivity is lost in organizations because of duplicated effort, because what a team delivers is not what their internal client needs, or because one team has to undo work done by another. Create cross-functional councils or other mechanisms to ensure that vital information about scope, functionality, division of responsibilities, and timelines is being communicated across your key value-creating activities.

Cascade information faithfully across all levels of the organization. Circling back to the first blind spot, many if not most leaders underestimate the amount of communication needed to adequately convey vision, strategy and execution to all levels of the organization. In smaller organizations this can be done in person, while larger organizations benefit from the use of video blogs to blast a unified message out to all stakeholders. Assume important messages will need to be incorporated into an ongoing information stream.

It is vital that this information sharing be two way. Too often, an organizational silence prevails about barriers to performance, leading to disgruntled and divisive water cooler conversations. Provide institutionalized opportunities to discuss problems and challenges, including your own blind spots as a leader. Believe me, your staff knows exactly what those are! Create safe ways (for them and you) to bring them forward.

High performance companies that focus consistently on these six management priorities use them as tools to pursue strategic alignment, create motivation and buy-in, and develop an institutional capacity for ongoing learning and change. Those three areas are the keys to the kingdom of high performance management.

To learn more about building a high performance organization, check out Michael Beer’s book High Commitment High Performance: How to Build a Resilient Organization for Sustained Advantage. And to tailor these principles into best practices specifically for your organization, contact me to discuss how I can help.

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E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.
Managing Partner
The Cogent Executive LLC

Ann Hollier provides strategic consulting and performance coaching to high achieving senior executives and management teams. She specializes in change management, strategic planning and implementation, leadership development, and building world-class collaborative teams. Learn more at http://thecogentexecutive.com/

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.High Performance Management