Confident Leader

Three habits that can transform your organisation

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When we talk about transforming our organisation, what we often mean is making its performance better. Much better. We want profit or financial results to be much better. We want customer loyalty to be much better. We want employee engagement and productivity and efficiency to be much better.

All leaders are responsible for how their organisation performs. This is assessed by the results the organisation achieves, not by the work it performs. To truly know how an organisation is performing, and whether it’s getting better over time, those results must be measured.

Performance measures are what we use to objectively know how our organisation is performing. If we don’t know, then we can’t make the best decisions that will transform the organisation.

According to authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton in their book “Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense:”

“Business decisions, as many of our colleagues in business and your own experience can attest, are frequently based on hope or fear, what others seem to be doing, what senior leaders have done and believe has worked in the past, and their dearly held ideologies — in short, on lots of things other than the facts.”

To transform the performance of an organisation, its leaders must have the facts. And that means practicing evidence-based leadership.

Evidence-based leadership

Evidence-based leadership is how we navigate and steer our organisations through a world that is somewhere between the extremes of perfect predictability and perfect unpredictability. Measurement is the tool that makes this faster and easier. Leaders are responsible for the direction and the culture of an organisation, and creating both of these through evidence-based leadership is what makes transformation possible.

There are three evidence-based leadership habits of high performance. These habits are called Direction, Evidence and Execution.

Habit 1: Direction

Direction is about articulating a well-designed strategy that is results-oriented, understandable to everyone, and ruthlessly prioritised. Leaders can transform performance through Direction by:

  • Writing strategic goals that are results-oriented, not action-oriented (action comes later).
  • Clearly articulating the strategic goals in language everyone will understand (they can’t buy into what they don’t understand).
  • Ruthlessly prioritising the strategic goals to focus on performance results that matter most, right now (the more goals you have, the fewer you’ll achieve).

Habit 2: Evidence

Evidence is about setting meaningful performance measures for each strategic goal that are quantitative, aligned to what matters and focused on improvement. Leaders can transform performance through Evidence by:

  • Usingperformance measures to learn about process performance, without judgement (if people are measured, they will game the numbers).
  • Designing measures as quantifications of the observable results of their strategic direction (the existing easy-to-measure stuff often isn’t meaningful).
  • Only measuring what can be aligned to the priorities: mission, vision and strategic goals (it’s tempting to measure for vanity, rather than improvement).

Habit 3: Execution

Execution is about implementing the corporate strategy and achieving the strategic goals using the leverage found in the continuous improvement of business processes. Leaders can transform performance through Execution by:

  • Implementing or execute strategy based on working smarter, not harder (‘more staff’ is rarely the right solution to increase performance).
  • Making strategy execution about removing and managing variability, not about hitting the numbers (we waste too much time reacting to variation that is random).
  • Executing strategy to improve business processes and how work is designed (not to control people and what work is done).

There are no short cuts

Evidence-based leaders routinely talk about:

  • the purpose of the organisation
  • the evidence that the purpose is being fulfilled
  • what that evidence says about how well that’s happening.

There are no short cuts. If we want to transform our organisations, we have to be evidence-based leaders, every single day.

This is an extract from my new book ‘Prove It’ which shows how to create a high-performance culture and measurable success.

Three habits that can transform your organisation

About Stacey Barr

Stacey Barr is one of the world’s leading specialists in business performance measurement and KPIs. She is known for her practicality in solving the most common struggles with measuring what matters. Her new book ‘Prove It! How to create a high-performance culture and measurable success’ is available in stores now. For more, visit www.staceybarr.com.

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