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'Performance Improvement Culture'​ the new kid on the block.

More today than ever, having the right culture is seen as a critical key to business success and organisational harmony. In the blog we delve into gaining understanding of business cultures, how to change, evolve & develop performance cultures and the importance of maintaining the right culture and ensuring culture fit for growth.

Milestones focus is all about ‘Building Business Performance’ and our focus areas are Business Strategy, Organisational Performance and Enterprise Value Growth, and for the last 15 years I’ve been pulled into recruitment sector businesses by owners and directors to; “sort out the mess”, “get our strategy working”, “get sales working better”, “help us drive growth”, “make us more efficient”, “get my business working properly”… I could add another 30 or so quotes here but you get my drift.

In my experience, and very often, the root cause of the challenges facing the organisation are either; lack of clarity on the business purpose and direction of travel, poorly structured &/or implementation of strategy or weak value proposition. However, one facet that is taking centre stage more and more is the BIG C of business, and by that I mean CULTURE.

Now more than ever, I’m convinced that lack of understanding of what the business culture is &/or what that culture needs to be to make the organisation perform to the best of its abilities is often limiting the impact of interventions in other areas. Culture is what binds us, it’s what glues everything together, and a weakness in that glue will mean that we can’t optimise, or more tellingly, will hold us back from achieving and potentially mean that we fail to achieve.

Culture is not a bunch of values which are no more than some catchy words, strung together and up on a wall or intranet. Yes its values, but it’s also beliefs, its attitudes and most of all its behaviors. Words are just that but as we all know actions are where it’s at.

If we all practice what we preach and lead by example then we have a chance at real success.

Businesses that thrive in the good times and who are resilient in challenging times are typically ones that have clarity of purpose with clearly defined Vision, Mission and Values. They are businesses who know their Critical Success Factors and have clearly defined goals and measures in place with a clearly understood strategy that’s reviewed regularly. Across the strata of the business they have tactics and plans in place, that ensure that everyone knows what’s expected, and what needs to be delivered to achieve.

Importantly there is a level of communication and understanding on all of this from all parties, i.e. the business and all the people in the business GET IT and know what part they play in it.

Something that I’ve focused in on with businesses of mine and my clients is to work on gaining an understanding of the culture of the organisation, in terms of:

  • What is the current culture?

  • Are management and staff aligned on culture?

  • How does that culture need to evolve to the benefit of all stakeholders?

  • How to take the steps to developing a Performance Improvement Culture?

Businesses that need to go through a period of transformational change in developing a performance improvement culture, and will likely experience ‘culture shock’, but by having a mechanism to measure, track and manage culture will help that journey and avoid having to 2nd guess all the time. Good thing today that there are a number of tools available to help that, and many of them SaaS based and not expensive or onerous

Real success follows where a business is to a point where all stakeholders are focused on quality and excellence, one where people ask themselves regularly how they can improve what they do, how they can reduce waste, how they can add more value…

... then we really have something special. That culture of Continuous Improvement can and should be supported by some slick measurement management to help everyone focus on a Plan, Do, Check Act approach to working.

The importance of Future Proofing

One of the big wins here is the fact that Generations Y (born between 1985-1995), Gen Z (bb 1995-2005) and our Gen A’s (bb 2005-2015), are all to a person focused more on personal and professional development, on doing things well that will benefit other and society and all well before personal rewards. So attracting and retaining staff is going to be harder and harder if the culture isn’t what it needs to be for them.

 The great things is that for the older generations such as X (bb 1960-1985) and the Baby Boomers (bb 1945-19-60), then a ‘Performance Improvement Culture’ will deliver to their needs as well, as there is no doubting the financial effects of getting it right in this way.

Every one should win from the right culture, and a bit of an acid test that I like to use with business owners, leaders and management is; Can you answer YES to all of these six killer questions…

  1. Do you have a clear and documented strategy?

  2. Have you identified your critical success factors (CSFs), in all areas and at all levels?

  3. Have you turned your CSFs into performance measures?

  4. Are you carrying out team based performance reviews each month for all CSFs?

  5. Is continuous improvement geared to improving CSF performance?

  6. Is your company earning the maximum profits it can from its resources and its’ know how?

… and if you can’t then think about what can be done to make your business better, and how a focus on improvement could transform performance for your business, be that; bad to poor, poor to average, average to good, good to great or great to excellent.

In summary, a Performance Improvement Culture is one that involves all the people, where we measure the important stuff that we do, we act to improve which in turn motives the business and its people giving us that big win of a culture that is focused on continuous improvement.

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