People and Performance

Welcome to People and Performance – a new blog by Max Edwards of Maximise Consulting.

What works for optimising people and performance to create more vital and viable organisations? This is the start of a blog where thinking, curiosity and possibility counts, and where people managers and organisational practitioners can share their thoughts and opinions about what it takes to really lift people and performance at work.

With over 20 years experience in consulting to business leaders in Australia and Europe, I have found that organisations continue to struggle with similar issues: 1) people are not aligned on strategic priorities; 2) people aren’t as accountable or committed as they might be, 3) and there is often poor cross-functional collaboration. The result: poor execution and lost opportunity.

I have also found that most people want to play to their strengths, do their best work, be a part of something bigger, and contribute to a higher purpose. With global trends in organisations, across many sectors characterised by ever-increasing speed, bureaucratic controls, flatter, networked structures and information overload, comes a desire to reduce the complex in business to something simple and easy to manage.

In the desire to over-simplify can also come the illusion of control, through “evidence-based objectivity”, and definitive notions of return on investment. In my experience, there are no one-size-fit-all solutions. There is also increasing specialisation, fragmentation and polarisation of “soft” and “hard” approaches to managing organisations that present for me an opportunity to explore both/and, hybrid thinking.

The often underestimated aspect of people management is how to access the inherent wisdom and experience of the workforce. Sometimes it’s hard enough to get people to speak up in meetings. There are few authors that agnostically take the wider body of know how, to provide ways to create and implement an integrated approach to inspiring genuine commitment and discretionary effort required for break-through innovation and extraordinary business results from the people within. In fact, the institutionalised annual employee survey, frequently screens or entirely omits the verbal commentary in the form of rich description and actionable insight, in favour of the numbers.

People change performance. It sounds obvious, right? By “people and performance”, I mean being very intentional of a shared and vivid image for the future, agreeing explicit measurable objectives, being clear about who we are and who we are not. It also means for me, creating and sustaining a dialogue with employees that invites high participation and ownership. And it means regularly making time to appreciate people and their unique strengths, and to align expectations on the work and what support can be provided to help people be their best. There is also value in intentionally recognising the interdependence of people working inside and outside the organisation to do the work. It might sound simple, but certainly much harder to achieve consistently over time.

More specifically, in this blog I will provide comment, case studies, links and resources on:

People

What is it about informal, human connections and relationships that makes possible the seemingly impossible, achievable? Who and what is a leader? What is the leader’s role in shaping culture, taking people on the journey, cultivating good will and high trust, and the changing psychological contract?

Change

What are the primary levers of organisational change? How can people adequately make sense of loss and gain, and balance reality with opportunity? How might organisations better deal with continuous change and transition? How can the wisdom and genius of the workforce be encouraged and engaged to innovate new ways of working? How can leaders and HR professionals intentionally create more vital and viable workplaces?

Performance

What enables exceptional outcomes in complex and dynamic work environments? How does the way we look to the future shape the context for our aspirations and actions? What is the relationship between purpose, intention, vision, values, big goals, and relevant metrics, to alignment of people with strategy? Does strategic planning work?

On one hand, access to new ideas and tacit knowledge, accessed through social media and human conversations has never been easier. On the other hand, we frequently live in a world that’s information rich and time constrained, with a bewildering array of choices. I invite you to join me in deepening our understanding together through dialogue and disagreement in an increasingly dynamic world of work.

My interest in people and performance spans back over 20 years when I first started out in the late 1980’s as internal consultant at Australian department store Myer, working with management teams and their people to increase customer satisfaction and sales. I also experienced the realty of power and politics in one of the country’s largest employers. The same period also saw the global rise of business process reengineering and massive downsizing that changed the psychological contract for staff loyalty forever.

As a specialist in behaviour change for business, my work has subsequently involved leading the management development function for Harrods, London, internal consulting roles with SmithKline Beecham (GSK), Ansett Australia, and IAG, and external consulting roles with global management consulting firms Right Management, Forum Corporation’s UK Customer Experience and Leadership Practices, and Mercer’s Human Capital Practice, Melbourne. In September 2008, in the height of the GFC, I launched my own consulting practice to help business leaders change performance in the areas of strategy, structure and culture.

I welcome you to my blog and invite you sign-up to receive and comment on my regular posts.