In dynamic, rapidly expanding businesses, executives are invariably concentrated on performance. Achieving financial targets often leads to a collective celebration, acknowledging the hard work and success. However, these triumphs are frequently a blend of chaos, luck, sleepless nights, and sometimes, a problematic culture, more than we’re willing to acknowledge.
The critical question for organizations is whether their successful performance is sustainable – not just in the immediate future or in a flourishing economy, but also during tougher times. Struggling companies need to evaluate their performance impediments and whether they’re capitalizing on their strengths.
Drawing from my experience in leading transformative changes in various high-growth companies, I’ve realized a vital lesson. To transition from occasional success to consistently high performance, embedding a performance-centric approach into the company’s core is essential. This integration is not just important; it’s imperative, and the sooner it begins, the better.
Here are four key steps to establish a robust performance framework:
- Prioritize Performance as a Key Initiative: Performance in an organization should be more than a collective effort of executives; it should be a deliberate, cross-functional initiative. This involves examining every aspect of the organization – from mindset and processes to communication and metrics – and integrating performance focus into the company’s infrastructure. This requires a detailed strategy, a work plan with milestones, defined roles and responsibilities, and accountability. Without this, a company may aim for performance but won’t cultivate a culture of performance.
- Designate a Performance Leader: For any company-wide initiative, a dedicated leader is crucial. This individual should be tasked with fostering a comprehensive performance culture, deeply embedded in the company’s operational principles. Often, this role is confined to certain departments, like finance or human resources, which limits its overall impact. The goal is to view people and performance through a unified perspective across the company. While not every company has a formal ‘chief performance officer,’ someone must effectively assume this role. It’s also important to assess and realign leadership roles to ensure they match the company’s growth phase.
- Unify the Executive Team Around the Goal: The entire executive team must understand and commit to the organization’s core philosophy and values, playing their part in building a performance-driven organization. This goes beyond informal support; I advocate for what I call ‘executive partnership agreements.’ These agreements outline decision-making processes, treatment of employees, operating styles, boundaries, feedback mechanisms, and conflict resolution methods. This not only builds trust among executives but also provides a structured approach to managing disagreements.
- Develop a Comprehensive Infrastructure Plan: Implementing a performance-focused approach requires integration into every aspect of the organization. This includes scrutinizing the entire product, marketing, and employee life cycles, ensuring consistent engagement and treatment of people at all stages. It’s about being tactical and identifying necessary changes. For instance, Valimail’s transformation involved a new company dashboard to flag performance issues early, a performance management system rewarding both outcomes and work methods, and restructured project teams based on strengths rather than hierarchy.
By treating performance as a strategic program rather than a mere aspiration, companies can unlock hidden financial potential and recapture market share lost to competitors. This approach fosters sustainable growth. Most importantly, with clear executive leadership and focus, performance is no longer left to chance but becomes a deliberate, integral part of the organization’s journey to success.