Are Your People Thinking High Performance?
Performance improvement efforts, such as operational excellence, total quality management, lean six sigma, 5S, and kaizen teams, all require a supportive culture in order to live long and healthy lives. A supportive culture is the difference between a program of the year and a process that is integrated into the ‘fabric of the organization.’ Most organizations fail to sustain such efforts because they try to teach their people to use new tools without changing the systems that shape the beliefs and behaviors of their people each day.
Cultures are shaped and shifted over time through fundamental systems change and significant emotional events. All organizational cultures are born when the first employee is hired - after that, it is all about shaping and shifting. It is a rare case when one person, or even a group of people, can significantly shift a company’s culture simply by becoming part of the workforce.
One person can make a big difference if he or she is the top leader. This degree of leverage comes not from having the ability to boss people around and fire them when they are non-compliant - such actions usually do more damage than good. Instead, this person has such leverage because they can lead efforts to fundamentally change the key systems they are responsible for - all of them. They also have the ability to change those systems, and their resultant work practices, that do damage to a work culture on a daily basis. For example, do your monthly 'all hands' meetings help people focus on what is really important and inspire them to higher levels of performance, or do they fuel distrust and ignite negative emotions because people do not believe they are being heard?
If this one person can rally the leadership team to follow his or her lead, or if the leadership team already has a shared vision of what a high performance workplace looks like, then this amount of leverage grows significantly. If the shared vision can be adopted by the front line supervisors, who really hold the keys to successful implementation, then an organization has a great chance of realizing sustained growth and success over time.
I think you get the point. Systems change shapes and shifts a culture - if you can get more people to help make this happen and take ownership in the improvement effort, the greater your probability of success will be. More people equal more emotion, and with the right systems in place, you are in a much better position to ensure that the emotions you generate will be highly positive, as opposed to largely negative.
We all need a high performance work culture if we want to consistently get great results. Without a focused set of strategies for shifting your current culture in this direction however, your improvement efforts will eventually die. Do you need to increase customer service levels? Are you trying to put high performance work practices in place? Are you trying to get people to use new tools and think differently as they do their daily jobs? Are you seeing the degree of change that you expected when you committed to spending time and money on your performance improvement initiatives?
If you want to get more out of the performance improvement dollars you spend and increase the likelihood that these investments will positively impacting your company's performance over time, take the time read about the different types of systems improvements that are part of this website. If you like what you see there and want to actually put some of these systems in place, send me an e-mail and we can begin to create a plan for making this happen.
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“The only thing I know is that I do not know it all.” -- Socrates