It's hard to imagine why a company would want to be anything other than a high-performance organization.
These companies consistently lead the pack. They earn huge profits, their growth is impressive, their employees are notoriously happy, and their customers rave about them. They seem to consistently anticipate the next big thing. How do they do this?
It starts with the right leadership. It's important to recognize the difference between a transformational leader and an incremental leader.
Transformational leaders see their company as an integrated whole. They know how to craft and communicate a vision for the future that rewards inquiry and leaves plenty of room for innovation along the way. While incremental leaders may be good at mapping a clear route from point A to point B, a transformational leader knows there's no way to know exactly what the future will actually look like, or what new technology may come along to disrupt the playing field. They're willing to take risks. They know how to balance the company's short-term priorities against its long-term opportunities.
Along with the high-performance teams they bring together, these leaders make sure the company remains open to inquiry and experimentation. They know breakthroughs can't happen without a few mistakes along the way. A high-performance company is constantly challenging the status quo, and a measure of failure is accepted. Transformational leaders cultivate a culture of collaboration – their companies are not fragmented into silos that never speak to one another. They come together across divisions to form fast-cycle teams that draw on a greater depth of knowledge to solve problems with efficiency.
These leaders take the long view with their employees and see their workforce as an important capital asset. They look for ways to increase the return on their investment by helping employees become more valuable – through development programs or by moving them into areas of responsibility where they can learn new skills. They understand the need to keep employees happy and fulfilled. They don't skimp on benefits. These companies often end up on the "Great Places to Work" list.
Rather than engage in expensive and often disappointing mergers and acquisitions, high-performance companies collaborate externally, partnering with companies that have similar core competencies to get their products to market more efficiently and successfully.
We live in an age of discontinuity. To grow in a big way, a company cannot just keep doing the things that allowed it to grow only incrementally. A fundamental break is needed: a shift from the mindset that got you where you are to one that can take you to a very different and much better place.
Organizations do not become high-performance overnight, and cannot hope to stay that way without ongoing effort. It takes a visionary leader, a leadership team that's aligned to teach a new way of thinking, and an organization that's ready to meet the challenge.