The performance curve

High performance has been a buzzword for decades now. Far too long than it should’ve been. Not that I’m against high-performance or something, it’s just that we can’t quantify what high performance means in this age of radical disruption.

Everyone’s got an idea or an opinion on what what a high performing individual, leader or an organisation is but we don’t have a tangible system to measure performance. While most leaders depend on a scorecard (because what gets measured, gets done) several others simply observe the impact a high performing individual or leader has on the bottom line and make conclusions. I just hope it’s not as simple as I made it sound.

I bumped into the Performance Curve while reading Sir John Whitmore’s Coaching for Performance (the 5th edition). And here’s what it looks like.

The Performance Curve

It’s an eye opener of a framework that gives you great insights on your organisation’s culture while also measuring it. And the latter has a lot to do with high-performing organisations. (For simplicity sake, I would say the Fortune 100 companies are all high-performing companies. It’s a broad generalization, I know, but it’s better than just being vague about it.)

I wouldn’t want to analyse this curve right now as I’m still studying and synthesising my research. What I can, however, tell you is that the high-performing companies have a culture of interdependence. They have embraced their differences, have identified their strengths and work hard towards complementing each other’s strengths so that they can collaborate and create an impact. Both productivity and attrition are usually not a problem for such companies. Why? Because individuals and teams are responsible and hyperaware of the impact their contribution is going to make.

Companies with an “independent” culture will have several rock stars at the workplace who primarily “work alone” and set their own rules. You know the ones who’re reckless, have an “attitude” problem but are still part of your team because they “get the business.” Or worse, they’re still part of the team because of their “institutional knowledge.”

The result is that the culture erodes and every employee seeks his/her own benefit before the teams or the company’s. Some go the extra mile and stay super disciplined to just follow the orders and do what’s been told. That’s it! This is how dependency creeps into the culture.

Unfortunately, such organisations form a chunk of businesses across the world. They remain stuck in mediocrity and simply try to keep spinning the wheels. Overtime, they accept who they are and simply try to keep up with their level of “performance.” And that’s a tragedy because the world just lost an organisation that could’ve had a major impact in what they do.

All because we let the culture nibble away our strategy overtime.

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