The Five Steps to Creating a Culture of Performance in your Organization

Author: Bryan Ritchie

Some organizations have a “culture of performance.” That is, they win. Consistently. A great example of this, recently, has been the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Spurs are the only NBA team with a tied or winning record against every other team in the league. While they haven’t won as many championships as some of the legendary teams, during this period of great parity in the NBA, the team has won more games head-to-head than any other team in history. They have had more 50+ win seasons than any other NBA team. While the team certainly has stars, it has never relied on just a few superstar players to carry the team. In a very real sense, the Spurs have been able to create the right game strategy, put the right players in the right positions, execute efficiently every game, review and alter that performance based on results, and build high levels of team chemistry and unity. They have mastered the five steps to creating organizational excellence.

Ok, great story, you might say. But what does this have to do with me as a leader of an organization? You too can master the five steps to create a culture of performance in your organization.

First, an organization must develop the right shared mission, vision, and strategy. These are different animals. A mission is the thing the organization wants to accomplish. Why does it exist? A vision is the state of the organization in 5 or more years out. What does it look like? What will people recognize it as? An example of the importance of both is that if IBM had insisted that it’s mission was to provide typewriters to people, it would have been out of business a long time ago. When Kodak stated that it’s vision was to be the leader in chemical processed film, it was the beginning of the end of the company as digital photography made chemical photography obsolete overnight. The strategy is simply how the organization will achieve its vision. Ensure that strategy achieves vision and vision reflects mission.

Second, ensure that the people and their skills match the strategy. I am amazed at how many organizations develop a strategy that their people cannot execute. I’m even more amazed how few have programs to improve their people’s skills. This is critical because, as a Harvard business review article points out, only 10% of people have “the learning mind-set.” These are people who enjoy learning and improving skills. The other 90% will resist new learning and will not engage in training unless forced to do so. II once worked with a university that wanted to implement a strategy of undergraduate involvement in academic research. But they didn’t have the mid-level academic researchers that were capable of working effectively with undergraduates to make this happen. Either acquire or train the right skills, but make sure you have what you need in terms of resources to execute your strategy.

Third, goals or objectives should be aligned with the strategy and vision. Too many times organizations have goals that have little to do with facilitating their strategy and achieving their vision.I once worked with a firm where everyone had a goal. But the goals didn’t align with the top goal of the organization. While everyone was “rowing” hard, the boat was going in circles. Ensure that goals cascade from the top to the bottom of your organization and that daily behaviors will accomplish the goals.

Fourth, keep score. Or perhaps more fittingly, hold people accountable. This is hard to do. But think how well sports teams do this. After every game every player is graded on his or her performance. This is the only way practice can focus on improvement. Make sure everyone knows whether their team is winning or losing and how their performance is contributing to those wins or losses.

Finally, create team unity and performance. Team performance moves through stages. Sadly, most teams never get to a point where they perform beyond the sum of their parts. In fact, most teams perform below the sum of their parts! The key to great team performance is simply to foster an environment where team members are safe to admit their faults and weaknesses and seek help to improve. Put simply, do whatever it takes to help team members be willing to share their weaknesses with each other and seek for help to improve.

If you’d like to know where your organization’s performance ranks with respect to other similar organizations in each of the key five areas of organizational excellence, take the SPORT assessment, found here. After taking the assessment you will get a SPORT score as well as ideas on how to improve any areas of weakness your organization might have.

Bryan Ritchie and James Western are co-founders of GrowthSPORT, a successful consulting company whose mission is to improve SCORES (Stimulate Culture, Optimize Results and Engage Staff) for Teams, Divisions, Departments and Organizations through the SPORT model (Strategic Alignment, Personnel Performance, Operational Execution, Results Accountability and Team Strength), which are the Five Core Elements of Success.

GrowthSPORT provides resources, tools and experienced consultants to effectively implement the SPORT performance model from companies ranging from Startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Feel free to reach out to GrowthSPORT at (801) 676-2500 or at


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