Not achieving plan is a frustrating, difficult experience.

You spend the time with your team setting goals, sales targets and KPIs. You have done the research. The plan is bullet-proof. Or so it seems.

Why do plans fall short?

A major contributor to under-achievement of plan is a failure to create and manage the conditions needed for a plan’s success. Excellent performance does not happen in a vacuum.

Think about athletes for a moment. They all visualize success; crossing the finish line, personal bests and making the podium. Each visualization is a goal or target or KPI and with each visualization the hard work begins on achieving success.

Athletes have teams of people; coaches, trainers, medical staff, nutritionists and psychologists; all committed to creating and managing the conditions in which the athlete can excel and deliver on the plan for success. It is an ecosystem of training, physical therapy, nutrition and psychology in which the athlete assumes, rightly, that she or he will be a better athlete – every time out, because these are the conditions that create continually better performance.

Now imagine employees or team members feeling they will be better – every day. Imagine the feeling of accomplishment in delivering on goals, sales targets and KPIs through continually better performance – in every plan.

Create and manage the conditions for continually better performance within your organization’s operating system.

Every organization has an operating system. The best performing organizations understand and manage its unique capabilities of unlocking organizational potential and creating competitive advantage. Organizational operating systems run on the same principle as computer operating systems.

Just like your computer, an organization’s operating system can be calibrated for better performance. Like the team of people around the athlete, you can create and calibrate the conditions in your organization’s operating system that will result in continually better performance.

We call it the Unlimited Operating System, and it contains three performance zones; Human Potential, Cultural Dynamics and Market Possibilities.

Each zone is integrated with the other, meaning that management and team leaders must be aware of the dynamics at play in all three zones and manage them holistically for maximum performance gain across the organization or team.

Managing the conditions within each of the performance zones of your operating system builds organizational effectiveness and efficiency. It’s how our clients have achieved record sales, found successful positionings in new growth markets and fully realized their innovation potential.

Let’s have a look at the three steps to improved organizational performance.

1. Human Potential Performance Zone

The ability to manage human potential– the intellect, skills and talents that drive capability, performance and innovation is critical to an organization or team’s success.

James Brian Quinn, Philip Anderson and Sydney Finkelstein wrote of the four levels of organizational knowledge in Harvard Business Review; cognitive knowledge, advanced skills, systems understanding and self-motivated creativity.

The real market value and possibilities for success lies in the fourth level of knowledge, they wrote. Teams that possess the will, motivation and adaptability of self-motivated creativity outperform better funded or equipped teams.

In the Human Potential Performance Zone we have found that the potential for improved performance can be unlocked by creating the conditions for learning and yearning.

These conditions can be created in your operating system by considering;

  1. What skills and talents must be developed and utilized more fully to improve performance?
  2. What resources and support are required to help employees and the organization be successful?
  3. Is the work purposeful and is the struggle and striving for a meaningful goal and outcome?

We help our clients develop and motivate talent with skill and talent audits and employee discoveries. The result is a set of conditions in which people can make their best contribution, do their best work and contribute to a winning organizational performance.

2. Cultural Dynamics Performance Zone

In a recent Gartner study, managing and improving the culture was the top priority for CEOs and CHROs in talent management strategies. And it’s no wonder. Culture is your competitive advantage.

Culture is where the intellect, skills and talents of employees blend with process and organizational structure. It’s where authenticity is found and brand success is forged. There is great deal happening in this amorphous thing called culture.

How can we get our arms around culture and create the conditions necessary to accelerate performance potential?

Amy Daschle, Nikola Jurisic, John Parsons and Rahul Varma write in a recent McKinsey blog of the importance of setting a cultural aspiration. According to research from the book “Beyond Performance 2.0” organizations that align on a clear aspiration that aligns both an overarching goal or aspiration and a cultural aspiration increases the odds of their transformation’s success by 300 percent.

We encourage clients to think about plan and cultural goal aspirations by asking three questions;

  1. What are the organizational values that inspire performance?
  2. Which employee behaviours will be supported to make plan and achieve your goals?
  3. Which processes, systems and structures will unlock the desired behaviours and talents of employees and teams?

The answers become a roadmap to determining what kind of organization or team you need to be to deliver on your overarching goal.

These questions also underscore the need for culture to create a healthy tension within the organization or team.

Healthy tension happens when agility and effectiveness of employees combine with the efficiency of process and structure and when organizational values and beliefs meet the plan’s goals and overarching aspiration for success.

We help clients find the answers with cultural surveys to understand the values and behaviours present in their organization, and through cultural design for the desired conditions that will accelerate their performance potential.

3. Market Possibilities Performance Zone

In the Market Possibilities Performance Zone organizational potential becomes real market opportunity.

The combination of employee or team potential and your cultural advantage combine for a unique set of capabilities to reinvent, innovate or disrupt with new products and innovative practices that result in the achievement of plan.

There are multiple ways to success and a multitude of market opportunities available to your organization and team. Your operating system helps you focus on the best possibilities of success.

It is what Mars Petcare did with their business. Already a pet care powerhouse, Thomas W. Malnight, Ivy Buche and Charles Dhanaraj write in Harvard Business Review that Mars leveraged their purpose of “A better world for pets” to expand their business into pet health services, shifting from manufacturing products to providing essential services for pets and pet owners.

However, (full disclosure; Mars Petcare was a client) behind the purpose statement is a long history and a rich culture of pet care, systems, products, services, systems and talent built around the values, principles inherent in their purpose statement. Organizational potential and cultural competitive advantage allowed Mars Petcare to redefine their playing field and open new paths to success.

Realize your organization or team’s performance potential and cultural advantages by considering;

  1. How customers’ needs and opportunities align with your organizational potential and cultural advantages?
  2. Are you positioned to take full advantage of your organizational potential and market opportunities?
  3. How are you leveraging organizational potential and cultural competitive advantages for innovation, disruption and reinvention that leads to growth and success?

The answers to these questions may require some organizational and customer discovery work but, the result is a fully optimized and calibrated operating system that will improve organizational performance.

Put under-achievement of plan in the rear-view mirror. You have visualized your organization or team’s success with well thought out goals, targets and KPIs. Now, make it a reality by optimizing your organization’s operating system for continually better performance. You may find that optimizing your operating system also optimizes your plan. That’s a win-win, every time.

Like what you’ve read?

Consider David for a speaking engagement.

Be sure to discover The Unlimited Planning Process for insights and direction needed to discover and activate your unique operating system.

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