Creating High-Performance Organizations: the view from PPX
At GTEC (Canada’s Government Technology Event) this year the theme was High Performing Government. GTEC brings together leading public and private sector experts to collaborate on serving citizens better through innovation and technology.
Building on this theme, PPX (Performance and Planning Exchange) hosted a learning event in Ottawa recently that had to do with creating high-performing organizations. For those who are not aware, PPX is a federally incorporated not-for-profit corporation, serving as a discussion centre for developing, gathering, sharing, learning, and improving knowledge, understanding and practice of governance, etc.
This particular session, which I attended, discussed how the many topics previously explored by PPX can be built into (or shut out of) an organization's culture including:
- Strategic planning
- Evidence-based decision-making
- Practical risk management
- Measurement of performance
- Using program evaluations for planning and budgeting
- Maintaining effective control
Defining Organizational Culture
Accordingly, organizational culture is defined as how managers and employees in public and private sector organizations behave and interact, and how they carry out their responsibilities in an organization. It is the set of practices, values, rules and assumptions that exist in an organization that guide the way the people within an organization go about their work and communicate both within and outside their organizations.
In this particular session the key characteristics of the culture of a high-performing organization and the key elements and challenges in creating a performance culture were discussed and explored with participants. In addition, the effective practices that have been used in successful organizations to overcome these challenges - and how these concepts can be implemented in our own workplaces - were considered.
This is what a high performance culture looks like?
There was also a discussion to frame the appearance of a high performance culture:
- Leaders are trusted
- Expectations (of clients, staff, suppliers, taxpayers) are understood
Goals provide a clear line of sight
- Aligned unit, branch, department/agency, whole government
- Team is aligned, engaged, respectful, proud, balanced
- People speak up when they have a contribution to make
- Strategy and plans are implemented
Performance is measured
- Evidence is used for decision-making
- Performance is recognized and rewarded
- Reports are practical, credible and rewarded
- Risks are understood (dimensions), managed (exposure/appetite), and communicated
- Reputation and assets are protected
- Most time is spent developing talent rather than dealing with poor performance
- The organization learns
So what are the building blocks?
Without going into detail on each block that we discussed (which I would be happy to discuss with you) here are some pointers for each block - which hopefully capture its essence:
- Visible leadership
- Focused on high performance
- Clear destination
- Strategy and Operational Plans aim at the destination
- Resources and capacity match expectations
- Assess results achieved
- Measuring what matters
- Learning as an investment of time and money
To say the least, the challenges to creating a high performance organizational culture are many.
From issues of ambiguous and competing goals, programs which aim high but don’t deliver, unrelenting pressures to achieve more with less, changing goals and priorities, to lacking the capacity to implement plans, and so on and so forth – the challenges are varied and plentiful.
The focus of the conclusion stated that a high performance culture will not happen by just thinking about it or wishing for it. Leadership actions and attitudes are key.
In your experience, what constitutes a high performance organization and what challenges must be faced?