When you talk to some business consultants, they will tell you that there is a distinction between ‘good performance’ and ‘high performance’. It takes a bit more work for businesses to understand that distinction, and why they might be on the wrong side of it.
‘Performance’ in itself can be difficult to define, but most seem to agree that it is achieving corporate objectives. ‘Good’ performance could therefore be taken to be defined as achieving those objectives. ‘High’ performance is exceeding them.
What, then, are the key differences between a ‘good performance’ business and a ‘high performance one? The study of ‘high performing teams’ has been a feature of management academics for some time, and has even achieved acronym status (HPT). The hallmarks of high performing teams that have been identified by these studies are now familiar to most people in business: SMART goals, clear roles and responsibilities, a positive culture, and open and effective communication.
One paper from Boston Consulting Group from 2011, however, identifies the key to a high performance business. This is what it calls “discretionary effort” from employees, “employees are motivated to go beyond the call of duty in pursuit of corporate objectives”, because “work matters both personally and professionally to them”. BCG are clear that this is the result of an engaging and positive culture within the organisation, which in itself is a product of good leadership, a structure that is as flat as possible, recruitment aligned with future needs, and empowered leaders and middle managers.
The implication, then, is clear. The product can be great, the market can be ripe for plunder. But it is your employees that help any company make the jump from good performance to high performance.