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Recognizing High Performance Organizations

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Recognizing High Performance Organizations









I chose to study one of my previous places of employment which I'll refer to as OLD SKOOL. It's a medium-sized, private company with approximately 200 employees, in the business of payment processing, offering solutions to clients whether brick and mortar, online, and even to sales people on the go. Through the years, they have developed a complete line of products and services to help businesses accept all forms of payment.

I was puzzled with the atmosphere in this company. I worked there for almost three years hoping I can find out what the company's accepted norms are. Employees just didn't care about their relationship with the company. They come to work because they have to and not because they want to. Employees don't trust each other, not even their managers. Managers don't seem to care about their subordinates. The employees are treated like they are pawns in a chess game. What's worst is that the circles formed or cliques in the workplace often include the immediate supervisor and the manager. The line that separates friendship and work relationship is blurred.

I will focus my evaluation on the area or department I was assigned to. I stayed with the Quality Assurance team for two years and transferred to the New Applications team. I will include observations of the other departments as they affect the productivity within our team.

OCI Review

I've used the Organizational Culture Inventory or OCI analysis tool in determining the corporate culture in Old Skool. The strongest extensions are in the Passive/Defensive style. With respect to the specific cultural norms, the primary style is Conventional. A Conventional culture is descriptive of organizations that are conservative, traditional, and bureaucratically controlled. Employees are expected to conform, follow the rules, and make a good impression. An individual will be highly regarded if he always follow policies and practices or fit into the 'mold'. This description is true of my experience with Old Skool. We were expected to walk the line with 'blindfolds'. Employees who ask the 'why' and 'why not' are frowned upon.

The secondary style is Dependent which is a culture descriptive of organizations that are hierarchically controlled and do not empower their members. Centralized decision making in such organizations leads members to do only what they are told and clear all decisions with superiors. For an employee to succeed in this culture, he has to please those in positions of authority and to do what is expected.

Decision-making in Old Skool is based on short-term goals to please the next person up the chain. Managers don't want to waste time preparing for the future and are only concerned with makings things right at the moment.

The weakest style of Old Skool is Humanistic/Encouraging. A Humanistic/Encouraging culture characterizes organizations that are managed in a participative and person-centered way. Employees are expected to be supportive, constructive, and open to influence in their dealings with one another. Members of this culture help other to grow and develop by taking time with people. Old Skool is managed only by managers. Employees are not encouraged to participate in any decision-making activities. The company decisions revolve around pleasing the man on top. (Organizational Culture InventoryTM Interpretation & Development Guide, 2003)

Opportunity for Improvement

This is an opportunity for me to familiarize myself with the characteristics of high performing cultures in organizations. I want to be able to analyze a company or one of its departments to determine how close or far is it from being a high performance organization. In this case, I want to analyze Old Skool, my previous employer. During the first two weeks in class, I gained a brief introduction to high performance organizations and it spiked my interest and made me think: if there is a current 'formula' for success, why is it not being followed? How do I recognize high performance organizations? How do I become a high performing manager?

Literature Review

During my research on high performance organization, I noticed that different sources on the subject are sending out the same message - although it may be worded differently and aimed at different audiences. I also found that while other sources will focus on what depicts a high performance organization, one way of looking into it is to focus on its opposite; how to be a dysfunctional team or organization. Some sources are aimed to help leaders and managers in their quest to become a high performing manager, while there are sources for the team members who are in much needed direction in their role as they set out to become a high performing team. There are also sources for the outsiders looking in - understanding from HPOs as examples of what they did to achieve high performance and how they did it.

"High-performance organizations are designed to bring out the best in people and produce sustainable organizational results while creating high quality-of-work-life environments." (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005, p 25)

This statement summarizes what high performance organizations are expected to accomplish. But what defines a high performance organization? Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn (2005) have narrowed it down to five distinguishing features that high-performing organizations share: HPOs value people as human assets, HPOs mobilize teams that build synergy, HPOs utilize the latest technologies, HPOs thrive on learning, and HPOs are achievement oriented. (p 25)

HPOs Value People as Human Assets

Maxwell (2003), the author of The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork stated that "All players have a place where they add the most value." He calls this "The Law of the Niche." (p 26) People in a high performance organization are seen as 'players' who add value to the company. However, there



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