Tuesday, May 1, 2012

To be high performing...

I've been reading, talking with friends and colleagues, and racking my brain to understand what it means to be, and what it takes to build, a high performing culture.

Below is a causal loop diagram based on my current thoughts of what the relationships are between the attributes, or variables, that define and must be present within a high performing organizational culture. If you're familiar with causal loop diagrams as a tool for understanding systems, you'll see that there are three reinforcing  loops. If you're wondering what the hell that means, I'll explain.

I believe that an organization can root its culture in any one of these attributes but must address them  all in order to build a truly high performing culture. Let's begin our story with trust, something I feel strongly about and while viewing this diagram and reading the explanation, this of the performance of an organization's culture as the vessel that holds this system.

If there is a high level of trust in an organization, or if level of trust increases, the ability of members within the organization to perform their job in a flexible manner increases. I like to think of flexibility in terms of the ability to bring one's personal strengths, ideas, or work style to a position. As an organization becomes more flexible to allow for individualization and to account for issues that arise, learning within the organization increases, and as we learn, we adapt, which ultimately leads to an organization's ability to last (lastability). The longer an organization lasts, when the preceding attributes are present, the more well being the culture creates for its members and as the members of the culture feel taken care of by its structure and systems, trust increases.

Ah yes, there are two attributes in the diagram that have not been discussed and they happen to be very important.

For an organizational culture to be high performing, it must produce results, as you see, almost all roads lead to results, and there must be some level of collective accountability for the work and the mission.

At this point, this explanation and understanding of what allows an organizational culture to be high performing is based on my own thoughts and conversations with those I respect. What I would LOVE, is your feedback and your thoughts on this. Does it make sense? Is there something missing? What would you add? What do your experiences tell you about what a culture needs to perform at a high level?

We'll continue this conversation in the coming weeks, dive into examples, and look deeper into each of these attributes.

Thanks for engaging!



Anonymous said...

Caleb - thank you for opening this conversation. I would suggest that there needs to be something about governance or structure in there somewhere. Perhaps the terms are outdated, but there needs to be clearly communicated, written and agreed upon roles, responsibilities and goals/objectives for an organization to thrive. These pieces directly relate to accountability and results, but also to the other pieces. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I forgot I was supposed to be commenting on your blog. :(

I would agree with Alexa that there needs to be a piece in here about clear roles and objectives. Even on decentralized teams like we have at BGI, we still have clearly defined roles, even if it's nothing more than formal hellraiser (having had that role, it's one of my favorites.) The same principles apply throughout a larger organization. I would go on to say that these roles are not static, but can be assumed by different people at different times. It's here that I think a lot of organizational change gets stymied and organizations grow stale.

Anyway, that's my $0.02.