symphony orchestra

What is your favorite high performing organization? Did you pick a team that you were part of? If you did that will make this exercise very relevant. What elements made that team high performing? List at least four and be specific.

I am going to propose there are common elements in all high performing organizations. Once you identify those elements in your organization, document it and inculcate into your culture. That way when things go wrong it is easier to troubleshoot.

My thoughts center around four areas; people, clarity, organization, and metrics. As you read below see how well the organization you picked fulfills them.

The majority of the individuals who comprise a high performing organization are action takers. The focus is on accomplishment rather than thinking. Thinkers have to get their ideas put into action. A core group of thinkers connected with action takers gets results.

Recognize the mix of thinkers and action takers in your organization. How can you optimize the mix and capability of your team?

A clear compelling purpose that articulates the what and why of your organization provides focus. Every individual in a high performing organization knows what they are doing and why. Large companies such as Apple, Whole Foods, or Intel, provide good examples. What about a small organization you know?

What do they do?
Why do they do it?

Structure and Organization
For high performing teams the structure and organization is streamlined and focused on supporting what the organization does. Education and training improve delivery. Hierarchical structure is designed to support actions to deliver. Policy and processes establish roles, responsibilities, limits of authority and are focused on delivery. The amount of discretion required by members when delivering is fully understood.

Lastly, every high performing organization has a methodology to measure themselves and they do a lot of measuring. Performance, progress, and growth is continually measured. Why? Because this allows leaders to look into their organization and analyze specifics. Specifics that assemble an accurate picture of performance. Leaders know what is working and where to go and tweak the system.

How did the organization you chose stack up on these four criteria? A criticism may be that this sounds very restrictive and limiting for individuals. Let’s look at a few examples I consider high performers measured against the criteria:

Symphony Orchestra
A mix of individuals who are deep thinkers coupled with action takers to make the music work. Delivery of quality music they love is what they do and is understood by all. Every facet of an orchestra is highly organized and structured, with roles, responsibilities, and limits of authority well understood. Finally, all rehearsals and performances are reviewed for quality.

Emergency Services
Action is the hallmark of these organizations coupled with a high level of education and training. Procedures, roles, responsibilities and limits of authority are well understood and each event has a debrief and learning component.

Team Rubicon
A disaster relief nonprofit with the mission to provide relief services to natural or man-made disasters. Training and education of its volunteer workforce is focused on delivering relief to those in need. Measurements of income, volunteers, material, and logistics dominate this organization.

What are your thoughts after examining a few organizations?

To me, having an organization that has the right mix of action takers and thinkers, with a clear understanding of what we deliver and why, wrapped in a streamlined structure focused on delivering quality, with metrics built into the system that allows leaders to determine the cause and effect of anomalies, sounds pretty good.

How could your company, team, or organization benefit by putting the above framework in place?