Building A Healthy Organisation

If you’re like most senior executives, you want your organisation to be exemplary. But if you’re honest with yourself, you also know that it’s not and that, in fact, you’re not even sure what exemplary means or how you’ll ever get there. Most management writing won’t help: despite the multitude of volumes written on organisational excellence, nothing we’re aware of combines a view on the “steady state” of high, sustainable organisational performance with a dynamic perspective on how companies can transform themselves to achieve it.

Looking back

Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage (Wiley, June 2011), from which a past post of my is adapted. The central message:

“organisational health—the ability of your organisation to align, execute, and renew itself faster than your competitors can—is just as important as focusing on the traditional drivers of business performance. Organisational health is about adapting to the present and shaping the future faster and better than the competition. Healthy organisations don’t merely learn to adjust themselves to their current context or to challenges that lie just ahead; they create a capacity to learn and keep changing over time. This, we believe, is where ultimate competitive advantage lies.”

Performance and health can be viewed through five frames:

Performance imperative Health imperative
Where do we want to go?
Develop a change vision and targets that are deeply meaningful to employees. Determine what “healthy” looks like for the organization in view of your change vision.
How ready are we to go there?
Identify and diagnose your organization’s ability to achieve its vision and targets. Uncover the root causes of mind-sets that support or undermine organizational health.
What must we do to get there?
Develop a concrete, balanced set of performance-improvement initiatives. Reshape the work environment to create healthy mind-sets.
How do we manage the journey?
Determine and execute the right scaling-up approach for each initiative in the portfolio. Ensure that energy for change is continually infused and unleashed.
How do we keep moving forward?
Put in place a continuous-improvement infrastructure to take the company forward beyond one-time change. Equip leaders to lead from a core of self-mastery.

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