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A High Performing Organization Scores Every Time

Provider of choice, employer of choice, and investment of choice—the three elements of the triple bottom line—form the right target. If you aim for only one of the three elements, you won’t hit the target, and your organization won’t be able to sustain high performance. Once leaders understand the importance of the target, questions naturally arise, such as “What is a high performing organization?” and “What does a high performing organization that hits the target look like?”

To answer these questions, Don Carew, Fay Kandarian, Eunice Parisi-Carew, and Jesse Stoner conducted an extensive research project to define and identify the characteristics of a high performing organization.4 Their first step was to define a “high performing organization.” While many organizations rise quickly and then plateau or topple, some continue to thrive, somehow reinventing themselves as needed. The researchers focused on these kinds of organizations, creating the following definition:

Because of their flexibility, nimbleness, and responsive systems, high performing organizations (HPOs) remain not only successful and respected today but also are poised to succeed in the future. HPOs demonstrate results consistently over time.

The HPO SCORES Model

As a result of their research, Drs. Carew, Kandarian, Parisi-Carew, and Stoner created the HPO SCORES model. SCORES is an acronym that represents the six elements evident in every high performing organization. A high performing organization scores—hits the target consistently—because it demonstrates strength in each of these six elements. The following pages give an overview of these elements.

S = Shared Information and Open Communication

In high performing organizations, information needed to make informed decisions is readily available to people and is openly communicated. Sharing information and facilitating open communication builds trust and encourages people to act like owners of the organization. Encouraging dialogue lessens the danger of territoriality and keeps the organization healthy, agile, flexible, and fluid.

C = Compelling Vision

A compelling vision is the hallmark of a high performing organization. When everyone supports such an organizational vision—including purpose, a picture of the future, and values—it creates a deliberate, highly focused culture that drives the desired business results toward a greater good. In these organizations, people are energized by, excited about, and dedicated to such a vision. They have a noble sense of purpose that creates and focuses energy. Their personal values are aligned with the values of the organization. They can describe a clear picture of what they intend to create. Everyone is aligned and going in the same direction.

O = Ongoing Learning

High performing organizations are constantly focusing on improving their capabilities through learning systems, building knowledge capital, and transferring learning throughout the organization. Organizational learning is different from individual learning. High performing organizations engage in both. Everyone is always striving to get better, both individually and as an organization.

R = Relentless Focus on Customer Results

No matter what industry they are in, high performing organizations understand who their customer is and measure their results accordingly. They produce outstanding results, in part because of an almost obsessive focus on results. However, what is unique is the way in which they focus on those results: from the customer’s viewpoint.

E = Energizing Systems and Structures

The systems, structures, processes, and practices in high performing organizations are aligned to support the organization’s vision, strategic direction, and goals. This makes it easier for people to get their jobs done. Energizing systems and structures provide the platform for rapid response to obstacles and opportunities. The bottom-line test of whether the systems and structures are energizing is to look at whether they help people accomplish their jobs more easily or make them more difficult.

S = Shared Power and High Involvement

In high performing organizations, power and decision making are shared and distributed throughout the organization, not guarded at the top of the hierarchy. Participation, collaboration, and teamwork are a way of life. When people feel valued and respected for their contributions, are allowed to make decisions that impact their lives, and have access to information to make good decisions, they can and will function as valuable contributors to the organization’s purpose and vision. In high performing organizations, a sense of personal and collective power exists.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 The HPO SCORES™ Model

Leadership Is the Engine

If becoming a high performing organization is the destination, leadership is the engine. While the HPO SCORES model describes the characteristics of a high performing organization, leadership is what moves the organization in that direction.

In high performing organizations, the role of formal leadership is radically different from traditional organizations. High performing organizations rely not on cultivating a great, charismatic leader, but on building a visionary organization that endures beyond the leader. The role of leadership shifts from privileged status and power for its own sake toward a more complex, participative, long-term process. As this book will continually emphasize, once leaders establish the vision, they assume the attitude and behavior of a servant leader.

In high performing organizations, leadership practices support collaboration and involvement. Leadership is assumed at every level of the organization. Top leaders live the organization’s values. They embody and encourage a spirit of inquiry and discovery. They help others think systematically. They act as teachers and lifelong learners. They are visible in their leadership and have the strength to stand firm on strategic business decisions and values. They keep everyone’s energy focused on the bull’s-eye of excellence.

In high performing organizations, leadership is not the province of formal leaders or a few peak performers alone; leadership emerges everywhere. Individuals with expertise come forward as needed throughout the organization.

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