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Are You Designing For Performance?

by David Brock on February 8th, 2018

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been writing articles related to designing our organizations for performance.  Whether it’s talent management,rethinking the bell curve, metrics and shifting the numbers in our favor, or rethinking the pareto principle–we can and are obligated to design our organizations for performance.

It’s a simple concept, but too often, it seems we design for mediocrity.  Perhaps not consciously–I don’t think anyone purposefully designs for mediocrity, but we achieve it through lack of attention, acceptance, poor strategy, bad execution, lack of discipline, and making excuses.

We tend to forget, we are in control of our own personal performance, that of our teams, and that of our organization.  We can design everything we do for performance and not accept mediocrity as part of our culture.

We see organizations that are designed for performance every day.  This past weekend, we witnessed (at least in the US) the Superbowl with two great teams (the Eagles and Patriots).  As you look at the journeys of each of the organizations, we see each was built for performance, they did not accept mediocrity in any of the roles on the team, coaching and management staffs.  In the coming weeks, the world will watch the Winter Olympics, elite athletes from around the world.  Teams that are designed for top performance.

We love the story of “Moneyball,” a baseball team designed for performance.  We love stories and speakers from “Special Forces,” talking about teams designed for performance.  In business we see organizations that are consistent top performers.  As we study them, we see what they do is conscious and purposeful.  They design for performance and do not accept mediocrity or poor performance.

I get frustrated reading the data about sales management tenure dropping to 19 months.  Sales people meeting/exceeding quota at less than 50%.  Recently I saw a “market study” that define outstanding performance as “60% of people, or more, achieving quota.”

We get the results we design for and lead to!  Unfortunately, too many seem to have fatalistic or closed mindsets, and are unconsciously designing for mediocrity.

Designing for performance is not that difficult–and it is a whole lot more fun–than designing for mediocrity.

It starts with each of us, caring about our own personal performance, constantly learning, constantly improving.

It moves on to our people, caring about them and their performance, willingness and ability to take responsibility for it, willingness and drive to learn/improve.

We consciously build an organizational culture focused on performance, learning, improvement, and collaboration.

We focus on talent management, not settling for what we get, but focused on understanding the behaviors/attitudes/skills/competencies/experiences critical to achieve the levels of performance we want.  Then we recruit to those profiles relentlessly, refusing to compromise, just to fill a vacant position.

We constantly develop our people, through training and coaching.  We leverage everything we can-systems, processes, tools, programs.

We protect our people, enabling them to perform.  We constantly look to simplifying processes and workflows.  We remove obstacles and barriers that inhibit their ability to perform.  We recognize great performance and constantly strive to develop and improve the performance of every one.

We are constantly involved with our people–not micromanaging, but working with them, learning, helping them develop and improve.

We celebrate our wins, recognizing it takes a team to win.  We learn from our failures, trying to understand them, take corrective action and improve.  We don’t seek to assign blame, but take responsibility to improve.

We are pragmatists and realists.  We don’t look for silver bullets, magical cures, or succumb to wishful thinking or excuses.  We recognize we are in control of our performance, we are responsible and accountable for the results we produce.  We know success comes from doing the work, and not taking short cuts.  We don’t settle, we don’t compromise our standards–ever.  We leverage everything we can, but realize it’s us that creates the success, not the tools or technology.

Ironically, it high performance and mediocrity take the same amount of time.

Using the football analogy, a game is four 15 minute quarters.  Great teams and mediocre teams have to play 60 minutes.  A baseball game is 9 innings, good teams and bad teams have to play 9 innings,  Soccer has two 45 minute haves.  Cricket is……  well it’s cricket 😉

We will all work the same 40-50-60 hours a week.  Mediocre teams will spend the same amount of time at work as high performing teams.  Perhaps the only difference is time seems to fly with high performing teams and time drags in low performing teams.

We get the performance we design for and accept.

Why would anyone ever want to design for mediocrity?

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