The performance of a business is undoubtedly a matter of doing the right things in the right way: making sure that you do what needs to get done, that you don't waste time and energy on stuff that is not relevant and that you do things right. Simple, or is it? That's actually a very "robotic" way of looking at a business. To achieve high performance a business must have a soul, an inner strength stemming from several key components.
Everywhere I look, true performance is not only supported by good management, adequate processes and proper metrics. These are vital requirements to simply survive in today's competitive environment. Here are a few of the things I find in businesses that perform exceptionally well:
- people's commitment, the deep involvement of individuals in a business, because ultimately it is because people are with a company with the energy of their hearts (not only with the motivation of the pocket) that true progress is achieved. Progress is for a company in terms of business prosperity and it is for individuals in terms of professional and personal growth;
- total engagement in projects because there are no boring projects that can be left in a dark corner: either a project is required for a business and then it must be given proper care or it is not and then nobody should be wasting time with it;
- they leave the ego outside the company's walls. Serving the larger purpose of a team instead in a way that transcends and includes the goals of an individual is an absolute must. That is true in business as it is in successful teams in sports for example. Trouble happens when individuals sacrifice the interests of the business on the altar of their personal agendas, more often than not jeopardizing the former and failing in the latter;
- careful selection of partners and employees. That's actually a direct consequence of the above three points and it does not mean that a business should choose only "standard products", i.e. conventional profiles that comply with criteria that are theoretically interesting but practically either not applicable or mere components of a masquerade in which employers fake to look for only "perfect" candidates and candidates fake to be exactly that. Now, anybody who has embarked on a job search at any point in time in their lives will tell you that this is the recruitment game in most cases. Some companies try to address that with background checks and private investigations into people's lives, but that is not the point. Again, the way to pick someone to be part of a team is a matter of technique as it is a matter of heart and intuition. A good match will happen not only at the level of capabilities, but first and foremost at the level of values: to what extent does the person share the values of a business? How consistent are they with their stated values? These are questions no private investigation will be able to answer in a meaningful way;
- the drive to strike deals when required. Deals between people provide the foundation to create a business; deals between companies provide the foundation to create a value system. This point is closely related to the point about leaving all egos outside the company's walls. One of my customers became a group of companies in the media & marketing business through the sheer power of their deal-making capability, their respect for the community created by the deal and their skill in protecting their deal and in making it thrive by adjusting it to changes in their environment. Their companies became stronger and started growing at amazing speeds as a result of their agreement; today like yesterday they impress me with their genuine desire to make the deal as valuable as it can possibly be and I think that's a great capability.
Aside from "technical" capability (expertise, processes, management discipline, scorecards...), these are only a few of the things a business needs to thrive. I believe them to be extremely important because they are essential ingredients of the soul of a business. A business that has a soul is virtually unbeatable and the essence of it is in the hearts and minds of its people.