Characteristics of World Class High Performing Organizations: These are Clock Builders rather than Time Tellers

“People are definitely a company’s greatest asset. It doesn’t make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps” ~Mary Kay Ash

World class high performing organizations are built around vision, strategy, people (employees & customers), and leadership. All major policies, systems, and programs are rooted in market realities and customer priorities, and a deep recognition that employees are essential for success. Market realities and customer priorities determine the strategy the firm chooses and, in turn, the business strategy determines which core competencies and organizational culture are necessary.

Building a high performing organization requires planning and execution with the customers buying criteria (customer needs and expectations) as the basis to determine strategy, capabilities, and culture. The organization must be all about people and getting people (i.e., employees, customers, partners, and stakeholders) what they need, from skills and tools to information, authorization, and internal service; and provide them when and where they need it. Most important, the systems and practices must be strategically relevant in formulating business strategy around value creation for customers, appreciation of employees, and good citizenship in our communities.

In the article “What is a High-Performance Organization?” by Leigh Goessl writes:  So what exactly does ‘high-performance organization’ (HPO) mean? An HPO is an organization that concentrates on bringing out the best in people. An organization that positions itself to produce continous improvement and sustainable results. Defining characteristics:

  • People are Assets: Embraces a perception that their employees are assets.
  • Mobilize Teams: Cohesiveness and teamwork are an essential.
  • Integrates the Newest Technologies: Technology greatly enhances productivity.
  • Focuses on Growth and Development: Thrive on learning and advancement.
  • Goal Objectives: Dedicated to meeting and exceeding goals.
  • Oriented to Achieve: Dedicated to quality results and continuous improvement.

In the article “Sales Force Effectiveness: A ‘Street Level’ View of Sales Effectiveness in World-Class Organization” by Forum writes: ‘Management practices’ that are linked most closely to sales performance and play a pivotal role in the success of top performing organizations are:

  • Develops strategy for the sales team and their accounts.
  • Being a coach and providing regular feedback.
  • Creates a motivating environment.
  • Being accountable and providing support around disciplined sales process.

In an electronic survey of 391 salespeople and 557 customers from a cross section of industries, including business and professional services, health care, hospitality and retail, telecommunications and high technology. And, within these populations, selected 93 sales representatives and 130 customers who were involved in purchasing products or services costing $50,000 or more; which represented a ‘complex buying/selling process’ that required the salesperson to apply consultative selling skills. This study provided a unique, ‘street-level’ perspective on factors that lead to an effective organization, specifically:

  • Demonstrating unique value. Sales forces’ greatest common challenge is differentiating their offerings and adding value. Sales managers can improve their results by paying more attention to communicating the company’s sales strategy and providing coaching and direction in how to demonstrate distinct value in every part of the sales process.
  • Focusing on the customer. Customers value service quality as much as the products and services they buy. Most salespeople seem to have a good understanding of the customer’s viewpoint, although they tend to overestimate the value of advice and information.
  • Improving sales manager capabilities. Salespeople who view their managers as most helpful in facilitating their sales performance give them high marks in four aspects of leadership: Strategizing, coaching, motivating and providing training, and support around sales process.

In the article “Best Practices of High-Performing Organizations” by Colleen Stanley writes:  The best organizations emulate top athletic teams; they have a playbook and practice. Phil Knight, founder of Nike, said it best: “You must act world-class before you become world-class.”  These organizations also are excellent at sharing daily success stories.  For example, one sales manager makes it part of his weekly sales-management activity plan to recognize members of his team for executing a specific sales skill, hitting the activity quota and, of course, closing business.

The result is a jazzed sales team that’s winning business… The sales team lives by the slogan, “manage results, not excuses.” Salespeople on these teams score high in interpersonal skills and empathy. They truly know how to walk a mile in their customers’ and colleagues’ shoes. These teams are good at sitting on the other side of the desk and figuring out what’s of highest value for the customer. They turn off the WIFM (What’s In It For Me) channel and turn on the WIFY (What’s In It For You) one…

In the article “The Best Practices of High Performing Sales Teams: Effective Sales Coaching” by Steve Andersen writes: Sales managers are told to ‘get out there and coach,’ yet most aren’t being provided with the ‘how to’ that is needed to effectuate field sales coaching. Field sales coaching is an essential management discipline for high performing sales teams, and let’s be clear that this does not mean or imply that only sales managers serve as coaches: some of the most effective sales coaching can occur when peers, colleagues or non-reporting managers engage with salespeople and create value for them ‘in the moment’ by listening, assessing and coaching.

But an expectation of field sales coaching must be ‘front and center’ in the role definitions and job descriptions of today’s sales managers, and this expectation should be supported by opportunities for training in field sales coaching best practices. Those organizations that ‘raise the bar’ by re-defining the role of the sales manager to include proactive sales coaching (and then equip and enable their managers accordingly) can expect to realize increased sales productivity, more consistent sales execution and competitive advantage within their markets.

In the article “Building a High Performance Organization” by Joel Shapiro writes: It is not a coincidence that high performance organizations remain competitive through successive generations of leadership. It is by design—their leaders build their organizations for adaptation, innovation, and lasting success. The implementation rules are summarized as follows:

  • Selection: If you are not hiring the right people for your organization, you can triple your investment in training and still not get the results you desire.
  • Measurement: If you are not measuring the right things, your people will be looking in the wrong direction.
  • Rewards: If reward and recognition programs are not aligned with your vision and strategy, you will be rewarding your employees to strive for the wrong goals.
  • Structure: If organizational structure restricts customer contact, your employees will not understand customer needs, and they will make poor decisions and customer service will suffer.
  • Alignment: You can invest in a world-class teamwork training program, but if you still bonus people for individual achievement, you will neutralize your entire training effort.

The bottom line is simple: align human resource and management practices with your mission, vision, and strategy. Use these practices pro-actively and strategically to build, reinforce, and sustain a high performing organization. We know that culture has a huge impact on the bottom line and on an organization’s competitiveness. To have a positive long-term impact, an organization’s culture must:

  • Be strong and unified.
  • Fit its strategy.
  • Be adaptive to an ever-changing world.

Michelle Darling got it right when she said; “the rate of learning by individuals, teams, and the company as a whole must meet or exceed the pace of change in the external environment”.  In the words of Arie de Geus; “the ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage”. Yet most companies create huge bureaucracies that hinder learning, change, and adaptive behavior. Many companies fail because they do not pro-actively build a drive for progress and innovation into their cultures. This is obviously not intentional. They simply haven’t stopped to think it through or make the necessary changes. Their oversight can be your opportunity. Culture matters!

In the book “Built to Last” by Collins and Porras they use the metaphor: We have to be ‘clock builders’ rather than ‘time tellers’.  They write: Having a great idea or being a charismatic visionary leader is ‘time telling’; building a company that can prosper far beyond the presence of any single leader and through multiple product life cycles is ‘clock building’… The builders of visionary companies tend to be clock builders, not time tellers. They concentrate primarily on building an organization—building a ticking clock—rather than on hitting a market just right with a visionary product idea and riding the growth curve of an attractive product life cycle.

And instead of concentrating on acquiring the individual personality traits of visionary leadership, they take an architectural approach and concentrate on building the organizational traits of visionary companies. The primary output of their efforts is not the tangible implementation of a great idea, the expression of a charismatic personality, the gratification of their ego, or the accumulation of personal wealth. Their greatest creation is the company itself and what it stands for… The continual stream of great products and services and individuals from highly visionary companies stems from them being an outstanding organization, not the other way around… Once you make the shift from time telling to clock building, most of what’s required to build a visionary company can be learned.”

It is not enough to be able to ‘tell the time’ accurately: Great leaders build world class high-performing organizations that ‘build clocks’ that can tell the time consistently; over and over again, well into the future.