An HPtE Strategy® starts from the premise that in order to achieve sustainable high performance it is essential to satisfy three necessary conditions:

  1. Commercial Responsibility
  2. Consumer Value
  3. Culture

Culture – A Safe, Secure and Satisfying work environment

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great – Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, developed the idea of “first who, then what – get the right people on the bus”.  He talks about making sure you have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before figuring out where to drive the bus.  When facing chaos and uncertainty, your best “strategy” is to have a busload of people who can adapt and perform brilliantly no matter what comes next.

Extending this analogy further, consider the impact of the behaviour of the bus driver.  Do they come across very controlling and task-oriented, overly friendly and people-oriented or do they take a more balanced and positive approach? Whatever the behaviour, it will affect the culture, climate and mood of the people on the bus.  

Leadership behaviour impacts culture and culture impacts performance.

Using the same bus analogy, but this time thinking about the driver of the bus as an employee and the passengers as consumers.  The next time you get on a bus take a minute to watch the impact of how the bus driver behaves.  Are they cheerful and accommodating or grumpy and dismissive? Whatever their mood as soon as people get on the bus it will have an impact on the passenger’s perception of the value they are getting.  It will have an impact on consumer satisfaction.

When you stand back and take a wider perspective on any organisation you can see two groups of things.  First, the physical resources like buildings, machines (including buses), computers, desks, raw materials etc.  These are the tangibles aspects of an organisation.  Second, there is the people and the principles, policies and rules that guide their behaviour.  The intangibles.

The principles, policies and rules that people hold guide their behaviour which, in turn, determines the effective use of the physical resources.  Without people the physical resources do nothing. 

The principles, policies and rules that have the biggest impact are the unwritten ones that exist in the minds of the people.  These principles, policies and rules create behavioural norms.  The kind of behaviour you see in an organisation is directly related to the level of safety, security and satisfaction the people experience.  The type of behavioural norms that exist is critical to effective resource use.

For decades the focus has been on changing the written or explicit rules in an effort to improve performance.  Rules about accounting and forecasting where created to influence behaviour first.  Efficiency and cost control was fundamental to these rule sets.  Then came rules about continuous improvement in order to increase consumer value.  Lean, Six-Sigma, TQM, JIT, TOC and Agile are all examples of initiatives with explicit rules sets designed to influence resource use.  Because the focus was on the explicit rules, which would often conflict with the expected behavioural norms and unwritten rules, resistance would occur.  To overcome resistance to changes in the explicit rules change management practices began to evolve in order to convince people to change.  For the most part, the unwritten rules still prevail despite these efforts. 

In the early ’80s, publications like In Search of Excellence and Corporate Cultures began to recognise the idea that the unwritten rules and behavioural norms are not just important but a necessary condition for sustainable high performance.  There are now a plethora of books and research papers reinforcing a focus on culture as a strategy.

But a safe, secure and satisfying work environment cannot exist in an organisation that is not Commercially Responsible.  No commercial responsibility – no organisation – no security.

Employees like to do work that is valued.  Value comes from satisfied consumers.  No consumer value – no satisfied consumers – little job satisfaction.

The point is, in order to maintain a constructive Culture that is safe, secure and satisfying it is necessary to be both Commercially Responsible and improve Consumer Value.

We can visually see this:

The 3C’s are a central component of the HPtE Strategy® Framework.

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Up next in the #HPtE series: The 3C’s are totally connected – isn’t it common sense? (HPtE #5)