The traits that create high performing companies

Model excellence if you want the shortest path from A to B, by adopting the traits that create high performing companies.

Here are the key traits from a number of sources, Harvard Business Review, Forbes and Accenture, integrated and condensed down into one hard hitting list, to be brain food for business leaders.

The key traits that define high performing companies:

1. They reinvent themselves and their business model

One thing about high performing companies is that they reinvent themselves, and believe that by investing in tomorrow, today, they will endure. High performing companies often make investments with 7 to 10 year payback strategies.

2. They run with “big enough” market insights that will disrupt the market

Rather than go with the safer, ” incremental change” they are wildly ambitious. High performing companies don’t tweak, but step up to tap into bold new market trends.

3. They excel at customer dialogue

High performers talk to their customers and stay connected with their insights. The phenomenally successful Lululemon activity clothing store, gathers customer insights on the shop floor, from its all ears, all eyes, sale people.

4. Regularly invest in customer research

Procter and Gamble have been able to consistently deliver the world’s favourite brands since 1837.  Through its outstanding commitment to stay in touch using customer research, Procter and Gamble have been able to keep current, stay relevant  and sustain  marketshare.

5. They are brands that walk their talk

ANZ bank looked to rebuild the bank’s culture to lift efficiency and revenue. After 10 years of effort till 2012, ANZ’s after tax profit was growing at 15 per cent per annum by delivering on a series of individual cultural values, such as developing a “can do” sense of personal accountability.

6. They focus on the changes that matter

In ANZ bank’s successful cultural transformation, they sought to integrate no more than 5 aspects every 18 months, after a period of 18 months, if they felt the changes had been successfully implemented, they would go on to the next phase of cultural change. This meant they could focus and execute without overwhelming employees.

7. They are a hot house of talent

High performing individuals produce 3 to 6 times more value than their peers. If you know how to hire, cultivate and manage high performers you can generate high productivity. Apple is a hot house of talent,  the average Apple software engineer is 6 times more productive than the average software engineer. It took 600 Apple engineers two years to develop OS X, a revolutionary operating system, while it took 10,000 engineers, five years, to develop Microsoft Window’s Vista.

8. Integrate cultural change with business innovation

High performing companies embed cultural change in all that they do, their  training and their business improvements. Leaders at ANZ bank’s successful cultural innovation, sought end of day team meetings to recap with stories of customer interactions, not just number based reporting, ensuring the changes were impacting the customer experience.

9. Form metrics for success, inspect and measure

Great businesses have dashboards for success which include clever metrics and methods to both inspect and measure. Inspection means not just looking for movements in the dial but touching and feeling the performance, inspection requires an honesty and willingness to speak the unvarnished truth.

10. Take failure as learning

High performing companies take failure in their stride, they see it as an important source of learning. A former CEO of Honda was on record as saying that 99% of success is failure.

11. Pay for performance

High performance companies often put their skin in the game, becoming risk partners with their customers. They can do this with warranties and guarantees on products or services, or they may structure a payment on the achievement of a given outcome. Taking the risk away from customers is an increasing source of competitive advantage that only high performers dare to have.

Louise Kelly

Managing Director

Hearts and Minds

Founder Thought Leaders Circle

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