Management books are full of phrases such as organisational effectiveness, organisational efficiency, organisational alignment, and numerous others. So when we speak of ‘organisational performance’, what is it that we are speaking about? First, we’ll refer to the Oxford dictionary which defines ‘organisation’ as “an organised group of people with a particular purpose”. ‘Performance’ is defined to include “the action or process of performing a task or function seen in terms of how successfully it is performed”. When these definitions are put together, we can say organisation performance relates to how successfully an organised group of people with a particular purpose perform a function. Essentially, this is what we are speaking about when we refer to organisational performance and achievement of successful outcomes.
We now have a definition but what does it really mean? High organisational performance is when all the parts of an organisation work together to achieve great results with results being measured in terms of the value we deliver to customers. These parts are:
- Strategic objectives – provide the direction in which everyone within the organisation should head. They provide focus and ensure we are all working towards the same end.
- Organisational structure – this represents the form in which the organisation will deliver its services. The structure must support the strategy just as the strategy must have regard to the structure. For instance, an on-line delivery strategy will not be successfully executed unless the organisation has on-line capabilities.
- Business performance measures – represent the measures by which each area of the organisation will be assessed. There is no single set of measures that may be applied across all organisations. In order to be relevant and of use to the organisation, the measures must be determined in light of the organisation’s goals and the strategies put in place to achieve those goals. It is this measurement process that will direct behaviour more than any other system that may be put in place. Further, the information must be easily obtainable - in a timely manner. This requires the management information systems to be developed to collect the right data in an efficient way.
- Allocation of resources and processes – relates to the decision making approach that takes place within the organisation. It is how the organisation goes about deciding where to apply its scarce resources – including money, time and effort - in order to achieve its objectives.
- Values, culture and guiding principles – this part is unique to the organisation. If the organisation was human, this would be its DNA. The culture must support the achievement of the strategic objectives in order to draw out the “best” of people. The values and guiding principles must support the purpose (remembering from our earlier definition that an organisation is an organised group of people with a particular purpose) for achievement of desired outcomes.
- Reward structures – must reinforce the culture and direct efforts to support the achievement of strategic objectives. Reward structures may include various forms – monetary (for example, bonus on achievement of short term goals), promotion (recognition of having acquired certain skills), celebration event (recognising and congratulating team efforts), leave of absence / day off (recognition and ‘thank you’ for a job well done), and so on.
All these parts are inter-related and a change to one will impact one or more of the others. Similarly, one poor performing part will potentially negatively impact the others and lead to less than successful results. So, what is organisational performance? It’s getting all of these parts to work in harmony in order to achieve great results.