Building a High Performing Team

 

West 4 x 400 Relay Champion

I sit in the bleachers anticipating what will happen next. I’m at the Tennessee State Championship, watching my son’s high school team compete.  It’s the girl’s day to challenge for a title.   I thought it was a highly unlikely event since the girl team had only seven girls competing (two freshmen, two  sophomores, one junior, and two seniors); they were completing against larger schools with more athletes.  It was the classic matchup of Goliath and David.

At the final event of the night (4 x 400 relay), Brentwood was leading by two points. The West Relay team (which included two freshmen, one sophomore, and one senior) finished fifth in the preliminaries.  Things were different in the finals. The girls ran like they were on fire. West’s Tamara Hundley noted, “Coach Crocket told us we needed to win this event to win State. We were not going to be denied.” In an electric finish, senior runner Maddie Treasure ran the anchor leg, came from behind and winning
the event in 3:56.82. It was their best time of the season and provided the team with another successful year. Knoxville West had won its second consecutive Class AAA team title by edging out superpower Brentwood High (62.5 points to 54 points) with the guttiest performance of the night.  Winning only one individual event, the team systematically scored in each event.  The
determination paid off.

The Magnificent Seven (Maddie Treasure, Riley Campbell, Maya Barreso, Kayla Newsby, Shantyra Delaney, Kaylah Whaley, and
Tamara Hundley) had found another way to win its fourth state championship. Celebrating that night, I ran into a rival coach from another area; the coach had won a state track title before, edging out West High to win.  He was disgusted that a girl’s track team
could score just 60 points and win a state championship.  Of course, it was easy for me to figure. I had watched the coaches over several years.  Will Jay and Mike Crocket had developed a masterful strategy of maximizing their team’s potential (this year they participated in 11 of 19 events) and creating a high-performing team.

Coach Crocket stated, “This is about the guttiest bunch I’ve ever had….We lost 50 points from last year’s team and had a
lot of injuries. These girls laid it all on the line.”  With collegiate All-American hurdler Jackie Coward of University of Central Florida graduated from the program, many people figured the West track would fade into the wilderness like so many other
programs.  The effort of this track program demonstrates the importance of developing a high-performing
organization to sustain success in the future.

High-performing organizations offer a distinct competitive advantage. A high-performing organization is one that is “intentionally designed to bring out the best in people and thereby produces organization capacity that delivers sustainable leadership business results.”  Most organizations want to boast about their superior performance in relationships to their competitors. Yet, when a litmus test is used, many come far short of this declaration to their customers.

When individuals work together, organizations often perform better. Therefore, working toward a shared vision and belief system are critical steps.  Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management, note the importance of good group dynamics: “People working in a group are able to produce more or higher-quality outputs than would have been produced if each
person had worked separately and all their individual efforts were later combined.”

The authors further suggest a competitive advantage for organizations working in groups and teams; the organization should aim to:(a) enhance its performance; (b) increase its responsiveness to customers; (c) increase innovation;  and (d) increase employees’ motivation and satisfaction. Yet, building a high-performing organization is no easy task.  Many organizations have faltered
in thinking that simply optimizing their resources with “good management” and utilizing good technology are enough to stimulate high performance.

In today’s hyper-competitive environment, it’s not only about good processes; it’s about putting a good team together.  Gary
Lewis, President of Resource Development Systems, LLC, argues that creating high-performing organizations is about managing people: “What differentiates the high-performing organization is not how well they have dealt with their process issues, but how well they have dealt with their people issues.”  Lewis notes some key elements for high-performing organization, such as people, vision, leadership, core competencies, innovation, trust, and personal responsibility.

 As organizations retool for the future, organizational performance will be a key topic for senior executives. The article demonstrated the importance of high-performing organizations for future sustainability. Every organization wants to attain
high performance; sadly, many organizations are simply clueless about how to do so.

Like the Knoxville West girls’ track team, organizations must find ways to overcome challenges so that they can become successful. People are a critical element to this organizational performance puzzle. Therefore, leveraging people is as important as managing resources in order to sustain high performance in organizations over the long term.

 © 2011 by Daryl D. Green

A Process Mindset

If you want to research how to be a successful NBA franchise, you need to review the history of the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet, it is the run in the 1980s that is most intriguing to me as an organization.  With the retirement of Jerry West and Wilt Chambertain  in the 1970s, many people probably wrote them off.  Even with acquiring 7 footer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers couldn’t duplicate their past success.

However, the Lakers started building the framework for a future success. This process included selecting a young 6-9 point guard from Michigan State named Earvin “Magic” Johnson in the NBA draft.  With visionary coach Pat Riley, the franchise surrounded their 7 footer with much talent, including James Worthy, Spencer Haywood, Michael Cooper, and Jamaal Wilkes.

However, winning required All Star talent to become role players and swallow their egos so that they could win as a team, instead of individuals. This process thinking was successful. The 1980s Lakers, known as ‘Showtime” due to their electrifying performances, won five championships in a nine year span, including beating their rivals, the Celtics, several times in key games. Like the Lakers, organizations need a process for success.

If I could be a fly on the wall during student evaluations, I know my students would note that Professor Green is overly obsessed with process thinking. In fact, I even have a process for naming files for submission.  In a world that often promotes free thinking and spontaneity, some folks may believe that process thinking is too rigid to be used in an uncertain future.  On the contrary, having a process-oriented mindset will help organizations navigate the future. In this discussion, we will explore how a process mindset provides a competitive advantage during this economic crisis.

Being  process-orient is important in today hypercompetitive environment. High performance organizations in America understand that excellence does not happen by chance. Understanding one’s processes is vital. A process can be defined as “any activity or group of activities that takes an input, adds values to it, and provides to an internal or external customer.  Some of America’s shine across the globe has been taken for granted the small things in operations. 

H. James Harrington, author of Process Improvement notes, “We have taken a fine worldwide reputation and destroyed….We lost the important customer advantage, and each day our reputation worsens because our competition is improving more rapidly than we are.”  J. Davidson Frame, author of the New Project Management, further argues that organizations must evolve their processes. Frame notes, “Thus models contribute to the management of complexity by reducing the requirement for understanding a process in all of its details. They permit people to focus on the consequences of actions without having to understand their intricacies.”  Therefore, having a process mindset will have a greater impact on an organization’s effectiveness in the near future.

How can organizations more effectively utilize a process-oriented mindset in order to better compete in the future?

© 2011 by Daryl D. Green

 

Fueling Intellectual Assets

When I wrote my first book, My Cup Runneth Over: Setting Goals for Single Parents and Working Couples, it took me two months to write and less than a year to get published (it normally takes 18 months to three years to get published).  People were amazed at my publishing accomplishments.

My world was transformed, from being a little unknown engineer in Tennessee to being a respected expert and quoted by USA Today and Ebony Magazine.  It provided a great avenue for influencing others across the country and the world.  Additionally, it provided me with a more diverse portfolio of passive income and revenue.  In the greater scheme of thinking, I found out that my new platform was centered, not on the physical book—but on the creation of intellectual assets. 

As organizations contend with global competition, many businesses will need to rethink their strategies for sustainability in the knowledge and innovation economy.  Across the nation, companies are depending more on freelance workers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workers placed by temporary staffing agencies rose by 404,000 since September 2010. Furthermore, many gifted, laid-off workers are forced to become independent contractors and freelancers.  According to the Freelancer Union, 18% of its members were forced to give up health insurance in 2009 while 39% cut back coverage.  This trend is reshaping America’s workforce.

Yet, value creation will be the key to opening endless opportunities for today’s businesses.  We complain about the rate of manufacturing jobs going abroad and how this reality impacts the quality of living. Perhaps the future will be ruled not by the tangible but the intangible.  In fact, the knowledge economy will wreak havoc on traditional thinking. 

 

Thomas Davenport and Kevin Desouza, intellectual strategists, argue the importance of organizations understanding their intellectual assets: “In the industrial economy, a key component of mass production and productivity—and hence economic growth—was the reuse of physical assets: molds, templates, castings and so forth.  Although so much of the economy is now based on intellectual assets, we have yet to achieve a similar level of reuse and productivity improvement for that class of asset.”  In this discussion, we will look at how intellectual assets will fuel the future.

Henrik Vejlgaard, author of Anatomy of a Trend, argues that emerging trends are influenced by gifted people, including entrepreneurs, designers, and artists.  Vejlgaard notes that these people “create new products or invent new styles or begin doing something in a completely new way.”  In the old days, creative people were the butt of jokes pertaining to finding sustainable employment.  

Yet, the future will belong to just these people, as many organizations across the world will need this asset to enhance their survivability.  Fueling the knowledge economy will be knowledge creation (intellectual asset creation) and knowledge management (intellectual asset management).

An important ingredient for the knowledge economy is the creation, use, storage, and positioning of an organization’s intellectual assets.  Intellectual assets are valuable elements created by human ingenuity: written documents, software, musical compositions, and other intellectual spin-offs.  Intellectual assets can be divided into two categories, product assets and process assets.  Product assets are the specific outputs of knowledge work such as software programs or legal briefs.  

In contrast, process assets are codified knowledge about how to perform a task such as manufacturing steps for a new product.  Some countries have already realized the critical value of intellectual assets.  In May 2004, the Ministerial Council in France studied how intellectual assets impacted value creation, growth, and economic performance.  The study noted, “The continuous shift toward a knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy has brought to the forefront the issue of how knowledge is created, disseminated, retained and used to obtain economic returns.”

Intellectual assets will place individuals at the center stage of wealth creation across the globe.  Today, traditional publishers struggle to stay in business as the world has been overrun by knowledge creation.  Many experts will argue that the Big 6 (Random House, Inc., Penguin Putnam, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck, Time Warner, and Simon & Schuster) dominate the publishing world.  Yet, the world is changing.  

According to a Para Publishing study, traditional publishers are in trouble.  In 2004, more than 1.8 million books were in print.  A new book is published every 30 seconds.  With challenges from the global economies, digital publishing models, and industry standard changes, major publishers are bombarded with changes that impact their bottom-line.  In 2002, major publishers decreased output by 5% yet titles published rose by 6%. 

What is driving the publishing industry now?  It is independent publishers and literary entrepreneurs emerging in this digital age.  In fact, 70% of the titles are now coming from small or self-publishers. In the digital age, individuals can transform one idea into multiple formats including paper back, hardcover, MP3 files, DvD, and other downloadable files.  Therefore, knowledge creators are building an empire of intellectual assets.  Websites like Createspace.com and Lulu.com give individuals the power to create wealth while building influence effortlessly.

What modifications will need to be made in the publishing model to incorporate intellectual assets created by entrepreneurs? How can organizations take advantage of these gifted creators in their organizations and still fully control their knowledge management processes?

 © 2010 by Daryl D. Green

Value Modeling

In the 1987 classic Movie Wallstreet, America witnessed a growing trend of the American Dream. Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a Wall Street stockbroker, wanted to get to the top at any cost. This short track path to riches led him to broker Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas).  Gekka was shrewd and dangerous; his philosophy was built on “Greed is Good.” Fox soon became engulfed in the glamorous life of the powerful. But—it was at a high moral cost.

Scandals may drive media ratings and turn the trivial into the most critical. However, moral decay does not help companies compete or make society a better place. We’ve discussed the socio-technical system as it relates to global markets. In building effective socio-technical systems, one needs to focus on (a) value modeling, (b) technology relevancy, and (c) human factor buy-in. With the continual ethical failures of government officials and business executives on Wall Street, many workers view ethical policies of today’s organizations with some cynicism. Do you?

A high performing organization must model its values to both first line supervisors and managers in a socio-technical system. Many organizations expect employees to understand its culture, values, and principles by attending new employee orientation or by reading a company brochure. This is simply not going to happen.

Vince Adams, who has over 19 years as senior environmental manager, understands the delicacy of balancing a socio-technical system. Adams has extensive experience with both government and private organizations that are find themselves neglecting to outline and demonstrate their value systems to employees. Adams states, “Companies must build values into their employees so that employees know what the expectations are for that organization.”

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, have researched over several thousand businesses and government executives and they outline setting the example as a critical attribute of effective leadership. Kouzes and Posner argue, “Once people are clear about the leader’s value, about their own values, and about shared values, they know what’s expected of them and can better handle the conflicting demands of work and personal affairs.”  Therefore, employees expect leaders in organizations to model the way in their organizations, and this is also true for socio-technical systems.

Is it possible for today’s managers to regain the confidence of workers on the ethical front? If so, how

© 2010 by Daryl D. Green

The Heart of Motivating Workers

 

Last week, my class startled me with questions that required my introspection. “Dr. Green, what motivates you to do the things that you do?” Of course, it wasn’t out of order since we were discussing how managers can motivate followers. It made me ponder for a moment.  What does any high performing person want from a career?

Each person has their own motivation. Joan Liebler and Charles McConnell, authors of Management Principles for Health Professionals, argue that managers must motivate workers in order to get work done efficiently and effectively. The authors further insist it is critical for ‘adaptation to organizational demands.’ It is clearly most organizations cannot handle disruptive change.

Yet, the issue is…most managers don’t know how to accomplish motivating workers. In the book Contemporary Management, Gareth Jones and Jennifer George make the case that understanding motivation is important for managers because it ‘explains why people behave the way they do in organizations.’

I argue that individuals are motivated from within. At the heart of the matter, workers must see the need for an action in order to wholeheartedly accept it in organizations. Yes, yes, people love a handsome salary. However, is it enough to create extraordinary and sustainable performance over the long-term?  I think not! 

According to the Conference Board research group, only 45% of Americans are satisfied with their work. This situation fosters an environment of emotionally drained folks. With spirituality on the forefront, most high performers are motivated by more than extrinsic rewards.

Knowledge workers want more. In fact, this new attitude may result in more people taking control of their careers and becoming entrepreneurs in the future. Mari Alboher, author of One Person, Multiple Careers, maintains it is possible to work one’s daily routine while engaged in his or her dream job. She calls this process slashing. Slashing involves pursuing multiple vocations instead of just one.

Individuals, like Leonardo da Vinci excelled in a variety of areas without sacrificing anything.  Alboher notes, “Pursuing multiple vocations is by no means new…What’s new is that huge swaths of the population are being swept up in ‘The Slash Effect’ – creating personalized careers that can only be described with the use of slashes.”

Pop culture promotes this hunger in the workplace. In the past, workers were content to have a good job. But today—what individual is motivated by an uninspiring boss and a boring job? Postmodernism speaks to this culture shift. While modernists place man at the center of reality through utilizing science, postmodernists, who place no one at the center of reality, has no core explanation of life. Some experts characterize by several attributes: (a) there is the denial of absolute truth, (b) all facts are not hard facts, (c) meanings are through the interpreter rather than the text, (d) climate of cynicism/pessimism, and (e) advocacy of understanding through a local community setting. Therefore, it is clear that postmodernism provides an opportunity for value conflicts in traditional organizations.

Unfortunately, many managers do not want to understand how to inspire their workforce unless it is a simple solution. Therefore, some workers who are unhappy with their situation try to conceal their discontent and provide mediocre performance.

What can managers do to inspire postmodern workers to greater performance? 

© 2010 by Daryl D. Green