Ask yourself: What’s the best organization I’ve ever been a part of? Why was it so good? How did it feel to be a part of it? What was done to build it and sustain it?

Most organizations focus on building pieces of organizational excellence, but few address it holistically, completely and directly.

High performance organizations (HPO) like Ritz Carlton, LL Bean, USAA and others achieve organizational excellence by simultaneously aligning customer needs and wants, mission/vision accomplishment and ongoing staff commitment.  Think of the HPO framework (Figure 1) as a means to grow and strengthen your organization, thus positioning it for desired ends related to your mission, vision and values.

Here is a brief overview of the HPO framework:

  • Customers: Organizations need to know who their true customer(s) are and those customers’ needs and wants. HPOs not only delight their customers for current needs and wants, but they also anticipate and deliver on future or unrealized needs.
  • Vision/Strategic Planning: HPOs know where they are going. They have clearly defined their vision (picture of success for three to five years ahead) and their strategies for accomplishing it. They have also clearly articulated their core values (behavioral and social norms) and use those in their recruitment, screening, hiring, orientation and performance management systems.
  • Leadership: Leaders define the vision for the organization and the path to get there. Leaders also help shape the culture—by their words, actions, what they choose to support, and what they avoid.  Managers help execute the vision— through effectively balancing the accomplishment of projects/tasks and meeting the needs of the workforce.
  • Employee Commitment and Competence: Commitment is the “willingness.” Competence is the “ableness.” When you maximize both, you will maximize your workforce’s performance.
  • Performance Measures: Organizations measure training outcomes so that they can manage better. If you really want to influence employee and leader performance, look at what your organization measures and rewards. Create a mix of measures that matter—including strategic and managerial—and “mapping” them to the outcomes you identify in your vision/strategic plan.
  • Change Management and Implementation: This is all about winning hearts and minds for the “change effort.” The change might be the implementation of a major piece of software, a new policy or direction, or a change in organizational structure. Change efforts should leverage the driving forces already in place and minimize the resistance forces. When people find a WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?), they’ll usually buy-in and get on board. Leaders must be able to articulate how the change will improve the organization and how it will affect the people before this can happen.  See Figure 2 for all the elements that need to be in place for successful change and what happens when some of them are missing.
  • Potential results of the HPO Framework: Describing HPO, or organizational excellence, both increases the motivation levels and clarifies the picture of success.

Here is a short list of potential HPO outcomes:

  1. The organization retains its “all stars” and they feel valued and equipped for excellence
  2. Our employees bring energy, commitment and “their whole self” to the organization
  3. Those all-stars bring more all-stars into the organization
  4. Clients feel delighted (with the outcome and the experience) and they bring the   organization new business (extending/expanding their contracts or providing referrals)
  5. The organization has a vision and strategic plan to guide its management and budgeting philosophy and decisions
  6. The core values drive the behavioral/social norms to achieving the desired culture
  7. The organization’s reputation and financial standing are solid and enduring

What’s next? Where is your organization right now? What are the potential gains that can come from committing to this journey? Even if you can’t fix the overall organization, you can help your department or team become an “island of excellence.”