Our Culture Is Already Oriented To High Performance (Lesson 1)

In more than three decades, working in diverse organisations and delivering projects in over 15 countries, I have experienced numerous cultures. Some have been exemplary while some are plainly lacking.

I speak with a lot of CEOs and division heads on project deliverables such as the training programs conducted and performance feedback, and then cover further salient matters that, with my 15 years’ experience in consulting, I know must be probed.

What I have learned in these conversations about productivity, performance, people and profit is that they all eventually boil down to culture. One of the first questions I ask a client is, “What is your sense of your culture right now?”

This may seem an innocent enough question. The responses I get are all pretty much the same:

  • “Our culture is fine.”
  • “We think that we’re doing very well.”
  • “Our last engagement survey shows a decent score.”
  • “We feel that we’re progressing in the right direction.”
  • “Our culture is already oriented to high-performance.”

In almost every case, the answers I get are no more than a loose commentary. The next question I ask is, “How are you assured that your culture is in good shape?” More specifically, this is about which assessment tools they are currently using and if they might be open to looking at something else.

At this point, I am often greeted with a blank stare or some uncomfortable shifting in seats.


Daily Wrestling Match

The truth is that most companies don’t have a real handle on their culture. Some don’t believe it’s worth assessing the culture.

Some have a better grasp of it than others and may even be using an organisational culture tool of sorts. There are many of these available on the internet, but they’re not necessarily the most credible or the best indicator of a good culture.

Companies often use popular tools to reaffirm their own belief in the success of their culture, without delving into the true symptoms of what is making each department tick. For example, many companies use employee engagement surveys to facilitate changes that will benefit the business.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not a bad idea to conduct an engagement survey; however, employee engagement is really a derivative of culture. You get good engagement due to a supportive culture.

If your culture is poor, you will not get good engagement.

In short, good engagement does not necessarily translate to great culture and certainly not to high performance.

My point is that, if you don’t dig deeper into what’s happening within your company, you will continue to struggle with…

  • Poor performance
  • Employee apathy
  • Missed deadlines
  • Non-existent KPIs
  • Dysfunctional teams
  • Maverick managers
  • Casual customer service
  • High staff turnover

To name just a few…

As well as the overarching business issues, there are also individual challenges that surface when a culture is in need of improvement. It is absolutely vital that you see these as faults of the business, not of the individual. After all, you are employing them, leading them, they use your systems, and so their performance is a direct result of your culture.