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Developing a Culture of Excellence

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Introduction

Every executive wants to create a culture of excellence in their organization. Only a minority of organizational leaders are willing to pay the price. Complacency, impatience and a natural resistance to change will be experienced while creating the culture of excellence. These things are difficult to overcome. Success itself can be a huge barrier to progress. A work culture runs deep inside an organization, and it affects all of its employees and functions. It is the outcome of deliberate choices made by senior executives. There are some strategies that will work for those who are willing to put forth the time and effort it takes to change the work culture to that of a culture of excellence.

Common Barriers to Organizational Excellence

In order to use the strategies for implementing a culture of excellence, one must understand the common barriers that they will experience. Most of the common barriers begin and end with the executives of the organization. Some executives do not understand the importance of the work culture and disregard it as a low priority. Some are unwilling to follow-up their discussions with actual actions. "In accord with most business leaders and observers, we believe that culture matters when it comes to explaining how some organizations achieve and sustain high levels of performance. But frankly, most discussions of culture end up being less precise and less actionable" (Breene & Thomas, 2004). Others are unwilling to pay the price of making a change in the culture of the organization. A change to the culture of this magnitude will not happen overnight. Some executives want to see immediate results and do not have the patience needed to follow through with the change. Executives are not the only barrier to creating a culture of excellence.

Another barrier is the difficulty managing for today and tomorrow. All companies need to manage across multiple time zones simultaneously. They are expected to achieve flawless execution in the current term while preparing for the competition of the future. Achieving this critical balance is made difficult by the tremendous pressures companies face to focus on the immediate results. Companies must find ways to respond swiftly to changing and often unpredictable circumstances, while at the same time creating sufficient certainty around goals and operating principles. This gives employees the kind of confidence and certainty that drives productivity.

A company's success is ultimately a matter of people, yet managing employees for superior performance remains more an art that that of science. While most companies see the need for excellence in this area, they are challenged in their search for systemic ways to bridge the gap between their level of capability and a higher one that leads to greater business value. Once a company achieves the scale that allows it to be a top competitor, its sheer size almost always makes effective communication, knowledge sharing and decision making extremely difficult. "Today's volatile business environment demands distributed leadership, obliging companies to possess a much deeper bench of talent. Creating this level of talent requires developing and retaining leaders at all levels who can perform above their titles" (Breene & Nunes, Balance, alignment and renewal: Understanding competitive essence, 2005). Companies must foster levels of collaboration and knowledge sharing that goes beyond the rules, leveraging informal as well as formal interactions of employees and business units across all boundaries.

Foundations of Organizational Excellence

The foundations of organizational excellence are people, planning, process and performance. A manager needs to understand these fundamentals that are needed to foster a culture of change. Within the foundation of people, an organization needs to identify champions that will help communicate the changes being made to the organization. The Mayo Clinic accomplished a service excellence infrastructure through "leadership support, identification of service champions in the organization, more frequent measurement of patient satisfaction, and perhaps most importantly, by building key service components into the strategic plan" (Frey, Leighton, & Cecala, 2005). These champions should know what to expect and how to manage people through the phases of the change. It's also important to embrace discomfort, since it usually goes hand in hand with change. The China Haier Group "established an enterprise culture department to actively promote and educate employees" (Lin, 2005). The organization needs to develop leaders that will lead by example and stand by the organizational changes for the long run.

The planning foundation entails aligning the organization around the strategic values. The executive team should adopt a framework for organizational excellence and a process improvement methodology. A simple strategic planning process should be implemented to ensure that the company's goals are going to affect them long term. Christine Corelli from Expert Magazine states, "Business excellence occurs when there is a simple and consistent system of checks and balances, guidelines, guiding principles, performance standards, and appraisals" (Corelli, 2003). The simpler the planning process is, the easier it will be to follow through with the process itself.

Within the process foundation, an organization must design and deploy an organizational change process. This process will be lead by leadership teams throughout the organization. They need to document key processes and empower people to question their importance to the changes being made. Communication is a key element to implementing a change and managers need to be open to receiving information from their associates. A commitment to keeping the employees informed throughout the process will enable them to commit to the changes being made.

Performance is the final foundation. An organization needs to be able to measure the success by identifying key performance indicators. These measurements can be benchmarked by researching other departments' productivity levels or other organizations within the same industry. Set measurable short-term and long-term goals that can be celebrated to keep the motivation and momentum going. To embrace excellence, an organization has to commit itself to continuous improvement. The key performance indicators will allow the organization to identify areas that are in need of improvement. They will also demonstrate to the employees that they do make a valuable contribution to the organization. This will help foster the right type of

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