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Finding, keeping and releasing human capital

Helping ordinary people use great processes to achieve extraordinary performance.

Paul Healing, chief operating officer, Project7 Consultancy

There is a growing body of evidence that some companies are beginning to find the answer to creating high-performance culture. Whether this evidence is provided from the fields of social and economic psychology or the collective results achieved by organisations that are delivering standout results in terms of profitability and growth, the answer is the same.

The outdated operating systems of the 20th century that prioritise title, salary and promotion as motivators will not work for the engineers, technicians and knowledge workers of today.

Today’s workforce values choice of when to work and where to work. Workers value development planning in their chosen field. They value working for a company that understands its higher purpose and has a clear strategy to get there. Autonomy, mastery and purpose in a role will help attract and retain the best of the best.

Companies that can create this environment are on the road to high-performance culture. However, culture does not create the business environment. The environment helps create the culture and business environments are created by consciously designed operating systems; the way we do business here.

As an example, Lego, in its journey to become the most profitable brand in the world, created an operating system that creates an environment where its people can reach their full potential and clearly be measured in doing so from technical, behavioural and political scales of measurement.

Moving from toys to jet engines, Rolls Royce developed clear behavioural standards for all employees, designed to achieve high-performance culture. What is surprising in both of these very different companies is that the DNA of their operating system is a clear set of detailed steps that any company could follow to repeat their success.

Firstly, set a clear, compelling vision for the company and define the strategy through which it will be achieved. Measure, monitor and manage performance through the business, making key performance indicators visible for all to see. Then move your governance systems to the shortest possible interval of control to reduce reaction times to issues.

This is the operating system foundation that then allows routine process confirmation, leaders at every level going to where the work is done in real time with real people to understand real issues brought to the surface by the operating system.

This is where and when people can be observed engaged in structured problem solving and our high potential talent and underperformers can be easily identified. Of course, developing high performance culture requires low-performing individuals to be supported where possible, and released where not.

There is a clear intent with a talent management programme to ‘manage talent’ after all.

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