Why Some Companies Outperform Others - Research from Wittenborg Lecturer
Wittenborg lecturer, Dr André de Waal, has published 25 books and hundreds of articles on the subject of why some organisations outperform others for a sustained period of time. One of his scholarly articles was recently selected as Highly Commended Article in the 2019 Emerald Literati Awards.
The article - “Success factors of High Performance Organization Transformations” - was published at the end of last year in the quarterly academic journal Measuring Business Excellence.
De Waal, who is academic director of the High Performance Organization (HPO), will lecture modules in Wittenborg's Master in Business Management programme when the new academic year commences at the end of August. De Waal is considered an expert in the field and has been studying the reasons why some organisations outperform others for years.
De Waal's research set out to answer the question: What are the main factors which theoretically and in practice best support a successful High Performance Organisation (HPO) transformation?
In short, he looks at the factors important for a successful large-scale transformation, as found in the literature available to him. This is compared with the success factors found in practice at companies. There is a brief intersection on the HPO Framework, focused on to identify transformation success factors at companies.
People at 1,300 Organisations Worldwide Surveyed
De Waal’s HPO Framework is a scientific framework derived from a comprehensive literature study and from gathering information from 2,601 people at about 1,300 organisations - including 623 public organisations - from across the globe. The study was conducted in two phases over a period of 10 years.
The work yielded five main factors associated with competitive performance. The five factors are:
- An HPO continuously simplifies, improves, and aligns all its processes to eliminate unnecessary procedures and to achieve best results. Continuous learning, renewal, and innovation are key for maintaining its competitive advantage and for responding quickly and adequately to market changes. It sticks to and masters its core competencies, retaining what the company is best at and outsourcing non-core competencies.
- Management values the opinion of employees and involves them in all important business and organisational processes. Employees are encouraged to experiment, take risks and treat their mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. Management and employees spend a lot of time in dialogue, knowledge exchange and continuous learning. Personal traits of managers, such as honesty, enthusiasm and decision-making capacity, contribute to their relationships with employees.
- Management quality relates to the integrity and the extent to which managers are role models to others. Management in the HPO coaches and trains people for effective performance and at the same time holds people responsible for results. Managers are result-oriented, maintaining clear accountability for performance and making tough decision about non-performers. They develop an effective, confident and strong management style by communicating the values and by making sure that these are embraced by all organisational members.
- An HPO continuously works on the development of its workforce by training them to be flexible, resilient and creative. It maintains a diverse and complementary workforce and inspires people to improve their skills for extraordinary accomplishment, making them responsible for their performance at the same time.
- Long-term sustainability is prioritised over short-term profit. An HPO emphasises an extended relationship with all stakeholders, such as shareholders, employees, suppliers, clients and society at large.
De Waal's research found 11 theoretical and 8 practical factors that best support a successful transformation into a high performance organisation. There was a moderate overlap (63.6 %) between what the theory predicts as success factors for a large-scale transformation and what can be noticed as important in practice.
- Pro-active support and commitment from top management in strengthening the HPO factors
- Involving all people in HPO transformation activities
- Strengthening the dialogue in the organisation
- Creating a "connected" company - ensuring all systems, processes and procedures are aligned
- Obtaining support from external stakeholders and partners
- Using good, qualified people to take the lead
- Training and coaching people in the new situation created by the transformation
by Anesca Smith