High Performance Organisations – reconciling the dilemma of efficiency and innovation

IMG_1027One of the polarities that leaders face in creating/nurturing a high performance organisation is how to hold the tension between organisational efficiency/effectiveness and encouraging innovation/exploring new opportunities and practices.    From my coaching work with senior executives, I have been intrigued by their uniquely individual approaches to reconciling the high performance dilemma of on the one hand fine-tuning the system, yet on the other hand encouraging radical change – both in support of the business growth agenda.

High Performance Organisations (and teams) do require a relentless focus and attention to existing ways of working, methodologies and systems/process in the pursuit of excellence (strengthening what works, what delivers value).  Yet, there is also a need to explore new approaches and practices which often means entering new territory where mistakes are inevitable and necessary!   As i like to consider that my own philosophical orientation is humanistic in orientation (rather than technocratic), I am always on the look out for thought leaders whose work resonates with my own values and principles.

Robert Sutton’s work is one such example, and I came across a great interview with him where he talks about the leadership that is required to work with the polarity of focussing on cleaning things up, yet at the same time recognising that growth is messy.  What is striking about his perspective is that the stance that is required is a need to maintain momentum, ‘to keep muddling forward’…  The reconciliation of the dilemma (to quote Fons Trompenaar) is to recognise and maintain a dynamic stance in holding the tension (through… and through…), rather than being at worst being immobilised or resigning yourself to making necessary trade-offs…


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