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How to make ‘Performance Improvement Culture’ a reality

In a follow up to my previous article 'Performance Improvement Culture, the new kid on the block’, where I wrote about the importance of understanding and developing the right culture to progressively evolve and grow businesses; I thought it might be useful to have a bit of a ‘How To’.

Towards the end of that previous article, we concluded with a note on Culture of Continuous Improvement…

… and one of the key elements of that symbiotic circle is ‘Measure’, and if people don’t have dynamic and empowering metrics aligned to strategy that will drive their own performance, then trying to realise a high performance improvement culture will be like wading through treacle.

A dynamic dashboard should release the full potential of both people, the business plan and maximise the ROI from your strategy. It does this through the 4 C’s of performance management

– Causes of success are identified

– Communicating your strategy effectively in your business

– Controlling performance

– Continuous improvement is targeted effectively

There are numerous benefits both personal and business, and I’ve never met anyone who wants to work longer hours and harder. Most people would love to work smarter and be more efficient, and we owe it to them and ourselves to make that happen. Just imagine a world where your people can improve productivity and increase commissions by 15-45% without putting in more hours, but just by optimising what they do day to day. THIS IS ACHIEVABLE AND CLIENTS I WORK WITH HAVE SEEN THIS HAPPEN! It does take an investment of time, but once invested the ROI for the business both positive culture/staff engagement and financial ROI both business and personal is considerable.

Step one if for us to turn our strategy into reality, and separating performance metrics focused on cause in four perspectives, with the business strategy at their heart is a good starting point. The exclusive or over bias focus of results (effects), especially financial results is a fundamental error made by so many. We need to get a focus on the causes, improve in that space and the desired effects will follow.

So, getting the focus away from financial results is critical, and a well proven approach breaks performance into four perspectives with focus on; Growth & Development, Process & Efficiencies, Customer & Product and finally, Key Financial Indicators.

Each measure should be well thought through, linked to strategy well-structured and importantly should NOT just be sat at the top table, but be cascaded across the whole strata of the organisation. Everyone needs to be involved or it won’t add as much value as it could, and thinking about: What we measure, why we measure it, how we measure it, when we measure it, want are we trying to drive through measuring it are all key considerations.

My top 8 critical success factors to making this approach work are:

1. Full staff Engagement & Inclusion

2. Make it relevant to all

3. Visibility either live and real time or regular review

4. Link it to reward to really drive behaviors

5. Cascade this throughout the business

6. Regular meetings, where everyone inputs and critiques

7. Annual review, to ensure it remain relevant and doesn’t go stale

8. Everyone must own it or it will be perceived as just another management tool

Knowledge is power, and at those reviews you’ll know if people are engaged as they will be asking all the right questions and getting quite animated about it. Hopefully you’ll be hearing:

• What’s the score?

• Why did we get that score?

• What have we learnt and how can we improve?

• Did we take the actions we said we would, based on what we learnt?

• How did those actions turn out and what more can we do?

This approach will drive, encourage and harness a high performing improvement culture, and one where people are focused on doing it well rather than having to do more all the time as TIME is the one finite element we can’t create more of, so better to be uber efficient and effective and e able to be a high achiever and work a normal 37.5hr week than have to kill yourself with constant 60hr working weeks!

This may seem odd to many in say the recruitment sector, so that culture shift and change will need a little management and understanding, and business owners need to lead by example on this one. As the late great Steve Jobs said...

To end, here are some things to think about and to maybe benchmark for yourselves regards to my

TOP 10 typical characteristics of a high performing improvement culture business:

1. The business has defined what’s needed regards to performance improvement, goals are set for success and performance in all areas will be measured.

2. There will be an open and progressive approach to working practices with; autonomous working, improvement groups, flexible hours, strong communication briefings.

3. Everyone will know what’s expected of them and what personal success looks like, with clear goals and accountabilities and also inter-dependencies understood.

4. There will be high job and role satisfaction, with progression enabled for both personal & professional development.

5. People are empowered and have an ability to be open and honest and challenge without fear.

6. There is a learning and development approach to work and the business, with strong leadership from the top positively reinforcing this.

7. PDPs are there to ensure that the business has high performers in all key roles, and that people are given the right learning and development for them to achieve their potential.

8. There is a focus on quality and excellence, and achievement is always recognised, not just through financial reward.

9. There will be a climate of trust & teamwork which is focused on improving the customer experience.

10. Everyone will know and understand Vision and Mission. Values will be practiced and demonstrated. People will know and see the links between business goals, through strategy, tactics and action plans.

Developing a culture of performance improvement will help the business in achieving breakthrough results, and will be required along with a marriage of good strategy, good implementation and good management through visualisation of performance.

If this has been thought provoking, and you might want to take things further, then email me at for a FREE PDF copy of the Milestones ‘Guide to Performance Improvement Dashboards’. 

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