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Achieving Peak Performance

Based on science and experience, the four pillars to truly achieve peak performance or optimal performance there are four pillars.

1. Improve your Operational Model

I realized partway through my career that improving any part of an organization – services, organizational model, culture – was like playing whack-a-mole. As soon as you improve one part of the organization, the other parts get impacted and pop up. Research has since shown that, especially for community organizations, operational models are not static.

We created the following Community Organizational Design Framework based in part on this

experience. It is a “contingency based model”: each tier of the model is contingent/impacts the other tiers, and when you change any one of the 6 Organizational Elements or Coordinating Mechanisms you can impact the others (so if you transform services you might impact the skills needed, or the structure required to deliver that service). You don’t have to use all parts of the Framework, but it helps make sure we have a comprehensive view of how reviewing a program or service can be impacted.

The upper middle tier, Organizational Elements, focuses on the inter-related elements of a unit or program that impact each other. An organization, service or program cannot be streamlined, redesigned or improved in a balanced way without taking into consideration the inter-relatedness of these elements.

The lower middle tier, Coordinating Mechanisms, explore the main ways in which organizations actually their day to day work. The elements included represent the ways that organizations – or even individual units – organize and coordinate the work to be completed (both officially and unofficially). We include this because we have often found how work is allotted, or how people report or are held accountable, can be the source of major barriers or challenges despite well constructed service model.

The bottom tier, Outcomes and Outputs, related to the frameworks, metrics or processes designed in order to sustain or continuously improve the redesigned unit.

2. Effectiveness and Effectiveness of Services

OK, lets say you use the above model and have structured the organization and operations well. That doesn’t mean that you are going to operate in an optimal fashion. The best service output is one that is as effective and efficient as possible.

An efficient service or program is one that uses as few resources as possible to achieve as much output as possible. An effective one is one that achieves the desired results with high quality as consistently as possible.

To be clear, you don’t achieve efficiency and effectiveness through cost cutting or completing a single Lean project. In fact, it typically means you need to invest in at least one (or better yet all) of these areas: people, process, technology or policy. I wrote about this in an earlier blog.

3. Optimize your Teams and Workspace

So now you have your organizational structure in place, and your processes and programs are effective and efficient. But all of that is for not, if your staff aren’t optimized for their roles. There is significant research that indicates that no matter how well created and efficient your processes are, your service levels and quality will suffer if your staff are not happy, engaged and optimized for their specific role and situation.

4. Alignment

Finally, its not enough to get those first three pillars right. What’s important is having all of the organizational and operational elements optimized and aligned. That’s right, to achieve peak performance you need to have optimized your organizational elements, have them efficient and effective, optimize your staff and workspace, and then have all of these elements aligned. Your vision and strategy should flow through your governance model, to your strategic goals; your staff and operations should be properly structured to achieve those strategic goals.

This survey of close to 1400 executives found that high performing organizations are those that have best aligned their strategy with their operations. It sounds simple but it is surprising how many organizations are not aligned. This meta review of the top studies into high performing organizations consistently found similar results: while each study focused on slightly different relevant elements, they all found that the alignment between them was critical.

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