Fast Company

Getting Change Right thru High Performance Teams

I am excited about working with Steve Denning.  So excited that I will be engaging him in a free teleseminar this Monday at noon to talk more about it. If others feel like I do, there'll soon be more.

I first joined forces with Steve in 1996 where we won international recognition for the rapid transformation of the World Bank's Knowledge Management initiative. Since that time we have worked together in a variety of venues, helping people and organizations create massive, widespread change rapidly.

Today Steve is researching how to make work work better. That means multiplying productivity not by 20% or 30% but by 400% or 1,000%!  That means finding workplace cultures that don't suck, but are a joy to come to work for. 

How would you like a job that you looked forward to every day when you got out of bed, one that didn't rob your soul or your time, but helped you achieve your very best in ways that were fun and rewarding? Sounds like a dream, a fantasy. Steve has been finding places that do it regularly, consistently, systematically.

Denning says these are not a few, remote, isolated incidents. There are 100s of organizations he tells me. Tens of thousands of employees enjoy these kinds of workplaces. And due to the productivity gains, it is inevitable that the rest of the planet will be going this way, too. It's just a matter of time.  ...feels to me like it's just in time!

So, with all this talk of deep job satisfaction and massive productivity gains I asked Steve to tell me more. Here is what he said:

"This is a radical new way of managing work. It involves a different way of thinking about work, a different way of managing work, a different way of participating in work, a different way of working. It isn’t a quick fix. It isn’t an incremental change or a shift at the periphery. When fully implemented, it affects everything in the organization. It entails fundamental change.

"Management has to act very differently from a traditional organization. In some areas, they have to do more. In some areas, they have to do less. The net effect: this is very different way of managing work.

"This is about high-performance teams. I began looking into high-performance teams just over a year ago. They are much discussed in the literature. They are teams that are both exceptionally productive and deeply satisfying to the participants. The conventional wisdom is that high-performance are very rare and very mysterious. It’s bit like falling in love. You never know when lightning is going to strike.

My research showed the opposite. I found that hundreds of firms have figured out how to create high-performance teams almost as reliably as lighting a fire under a pot will cause the water to boil. They have created tens of thousands of these teams. It’s become a huge, global movement that hardly anyone knows about, and it’s spreading fast.

"When you manage work in this way, these teams are massively more productive than doing work in traditional ways. It’s not just 30% or 40% more productive. It’s like 200%, or 400% or 1000% more productive. It’s just amazing the difference.

"This way of managing work is deeply satisfying to the people doing the work. Exceptional productivity is not achieved by beating and flogging the team members or burning them out with long working hours. This is about working smarter and achieving high-performance in normal working hours or less. This is about productivity gains that are sustainable.

 Organizing work in this way leads to excitement and shining eyes among the people doing the work. This is about organizing work so that people are able do what they love doing, and want to go on doing, with the people they enjoy doing it with. This is about improving people’s lives, not just increasing output."

I think Steve is on to something exciting and important. Come and join us at the free teleseminar if you have the time. And if you don't, drop me an email. I am sure we will post a recording you can download.

- Seth Kahan, VisionaryLeadership.com

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