Building a healthy performance culture
A healthy performance culture is about making people much more aware of themselves and their tasks, and make it a habit to think about how to best perform their tasks.
Why it matters
Most, if not all, problems or challenges an organization faces are created by itself. How can that be? Well, let's start with a few words about the human condition and how we humans normally operate - if we are not forced to operate differently.
Research on human performance in organizations that have rigorous routines and directives for how the tasks should be performed, e.g. Nuclear plants, Hospitals, indicates that a person makes an average of 3 mistakes every hour compared with how the work should be performed. That is approximately 5328 mistakes per person every work year. The underlying root cause for these mistakes is that we humans operate on habit. As soon as we feel we know how to do something and feel that the way we do it "works" we form habits to support this way to perform the task.
We have habits since our basic survival strategy is to consume and save energy, rather than to spend energy. The biggest problem with habits is that we don't think when we operate on habit. And when we don't think we learn very little and we perform the task more or less the same way with little consideration to that every performance situation actually is unique and that the environment around us actually change over time.
Another problem related to us seeking to consume and save energy is the law of least effort. There is a universal tendency that we always, without even being aware of it, choose the easiest way to reach a goal or perform a task. This means that we have a tendency to cut corners in how we do things, which naturally leads to a tendency to over time perform our tasks worse!
What it is
There are a lot of myths concerning how to build a performance culture or what it really is.
One of the myths is that people don’t want to perform or that an aged work force is not capable of raising its performance. The opposite is actually true.
Another well established myth is that a performance culture is about raising the activity level of the organization and its people. Again, the opposite is actually true. The less performance oriented a culture is, the higher activity level - mainly due to the fact that a high level of activity is needed to repair all the mistakes in terms of decisions and poorly performed tasks that happen in a non-performance culture where people act and think on habit, i.e. they think very little.
A performance culture on the other hand is about making activities intelligent and well thought through as well as making fact-based evaluation of the actual performance and needs for development, on both people and organizational level. This tends to actually lead to a lower activity level and a better balance between thinking and doing, which is a key ingredient for health, whether it is individual or organizational health.
So to put is simple: a performance culture is a culture where the vast majority or leaders and their staff wake up every morning with the ambition to develop during the work day and to perform at least one thing better today compared to how they performed that thing the last time they performed it. It is a culture where people experience mastery and autonomy.
It is perhaps not the most "flashy" definition of what a performance culture is but, more importantly, it is actually very close to the truth.
What it takes
Contrary to popular belief, is is actually not that complicated to start the journey to build a performance culture, no matter what starting point or size of the organization. And there are 4 cornerstones or entry points for starting the journey: