How can top level managers come to accept the idea that they are the major impediment towards achieving hyper-performance?



Do you find that there is a strong message that organizations don’t typically want to hear: that the strongest impediment to achieving hyper-performance is in the way of thinking of their top managers. Obviously if they don’t want to hear the message, they won’t even get there.

Is it so that this is a hard thing for most CEOs, CIOs, CFOs to actually hear that they are the impediment in the way?


Indeed! First, let’s look at the positive side of this consideration. Since the majority of companies are not able to undertake the path towards higher performance, that means that if you are willing to go in that direction, then you will have an immense advantage over the competition. That alone should be a motivator to try to go in that direction.

Now, let’s consider why people or managers don’t want to hear this. It was explained very well by Argyris: he put it in terms of management’s inability to deal with failure. Why? Because they have been very successful in their careers by doing certain things, and getting into prestigious jobs and positions. They don’t like hearing that they might be doing something wrong to begin with, or that there might be alternatives that work much better. Because of their continuous success, they have not had the experience of failure so they wouldn’t know how to deal with it; and they are even more afraid to change than people who are not at the top. They easily engage in defensive reasoning: they try to defend their actions or to find someone to blame outside of their own operations. This is why they are unwillingly a major impediment to change towards a hyper-performing organization.

It really takes an illuminated leader to understand his or her own weaknesses, and then act upon them; especially if there was a whole career, maybe spanning 20-30 years, being very successful in doing whatever he or she was doing.

So what can be suggested to help such leaders actually understand the priorities, and maybe change two things affecting organizational performance and their path to hyper performance? What would those two things be?

We have to go back to the two core patterns of TameFlow’s way to hyper-performance; the two patterns which are Unity of Purpose and Community of Trust. The first thing would be for companies in general but especially in management positions that have the responsibility and ability to make decisions, to develop a stronger appreciation of the importance of the social structures and of the organizational patterns inside their companies.

The social structures more than processes, methods and rules actually define the organization’s capabilities and performance. Processes are always something foreign to a culture; they are often force fed to teams and to people. It is natural that people will have a reaction of rejection, often labeled as “resistance to change.”

The truly important and performing processes will emerge from the people themselves, from the patterns of communication and interaction that govern their way of working. So that is where the effort should be aimed at. These patterns are determined by the social structures, the values, the culture of the organization…

The second thing would be to focus more on the products rather than on the processes. Focus on the products in the sense of finding the primary means of satisfying your customer. You want to delight your customers.

The example has been given many, many times… But look at Apple and their products. The focus on the product will not only create happy customers, but because of “Conway’s Law,” great products, and especially software products, are a reflection of the organization that build them. So great products reflect great organizations; those social structures and organizational patterns mentioned as the first key thing to change, will be reflected in the products and vice versa.

Executives and managers that want to lead their organizations towards hyper-performance should look at the social structures and focus on the products first, rather than being obsessed by processes, methods and best practices.

Transcribed and adapted from the SPaMCast #258 podcast.