A rapidly changing world has created a society craving for speed and action. In a turbulent environment, future leaders face incredible pressures to deliver immediate results, to do more with less, and to manage an ever-increasing personal workload. The pace and urgency of daily demands can make it difficult to perform in the future.
Create a sustainable culture of performance
Executives have a huge challenge to create solutions to enhance the performance of the people in their organisations. Management members should know by now that they need to develop their personal mastery as leaders to manage complex problems and to engage with their people in order to create sustainable performance. There are no quick solutions, and the easy way out usually leads back in. It is therefore very important to create a culture of performance over a period, rather than trying to enforce discipline from the top with short-term solutions and threats.
The advantage of a culture of performance, over management enforcing performance, is that you get the buy-in of the employees and everyone can ‘see’ and ‘live’ the benefits of the new culture. It is however very important that management realises that the change in culture starts at the very top. This is where many managers fail. They do not understand that it all starts with them and that they should set the example.
A culture of performance and a culture of discipline
Contemporary research confirms that there is a direct correlation between a culture of performance and a culture of discipline. This means that it is easy to observe in organisations with a strong culture of discipline that there already exists a strong culture of performance. A good example of this was documented when a forklift driver in South African Breweries (SAB) saw that the labels of the beer bottles that he had to load on the truck were not straight. He stopped the forklift and went to the depot manager and said that he would not load the beer on the truck, as skew labels were not in line with their agreed culture of performance. The depot manager then instructed the forklift driver to load the beer, but the forklift driver still refused and asked the depot manager if he could have the telephone number of the CEO of SAB to get his permission to load the beer. Needless to say, the beer was never loaded. This is a good example of where a culture of performance existed, enhanced by a culture of discipline.
First determine the current culture of performance
It is important first to determine the current culture in the organisation. Unfortunately, many management teams are in denial and do not want to admit that there is a problem with the culture in their organisations. Only after a thorough analysis with a proper questionnaire that measures the culture in the organisation, do management teams realise their current state for the first time and that much work needs to be done to create a culture of performance in the organisation.
Performance and productivity
Do not expect that there will be a high level of productivity in an organisation if there is not a culture of performance. Every person in the organisation must be able to ’see’ the benefits of this culture, but should also be held accountable to perform according to this agreed standard, with consequences not enforced by management, but initiated by fellow employees (forklift example). When a culture of performance is established over time, management can also look forward to a culture of discipline. The existence of the two dimensions in organisations is a proven combination for excellence. The ultimate consequence will be sustainable performance that will have a positive impact on the motivation and engagement of the employees at all levels.
Dr Kobus Serfontein is a senior lecturer and module head of Leadership Studies at the USB.