What does it mean to be high performing and how many workgroups achieve at this level?
I had a nice conversation with Susan Lucia Annunzio, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hudson Highland Center for High Performance, and an Adjunct Professor of Management at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Susan is a regular guest lecturer at INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau, France and has taught at General Electric´s Crotonville Corporate Training Center.
This is the first of three posts about our conversation and the book.
Her book, Contagious Success (written with Sharon McGowan) came out in late 2004. The book shares the results and implications of a wide ranging study done by Susan and her team at the Hudson Highland Center for High Performance with Richard Day Research. Their study was the first of its kind due to its size and methods. They looked at more than 3000 knowledge workers from around the world and sought to learn the factors that accelerate or inhibit high performance.
Why the study:
I asked Susan why she embarked on such a large study. Her answer will not be unfamiliar to those of us who have dedicated our work to helping individuals, teams, and organizations develop.
Susan said that the she got sick seeing support for people and organization development effort ebb and flow based on how the economy and companies were doing. If things were going well, companies wanted to do whatever it took to become a great place to work and an employer of choice. When things got difficult, these programs and resources were often the first to get cut. This frustrated Susan because she knew that developing people and the organization was NOT the nice the do stuff, but was really gotta do stuff – and therefore should not the first thing to be cut when times get tight.
After seeing this cycle happen again and again, she decided to quit her job and prove, once and for all, whether she was right or wrong.
The underlying premises of the research:
To achieve profitable growth, companies need to differentiate through new products, services, and markets.
Performance is driven by the workgroup, not by the individual.
Every company, regardless of how profitable or unprofitable, has high-performing workgroups.
The best individual performers won´t do their best work if they are put in the wrong environment"??
The book and the research focus on the workgroup. Here is Susan´s definition of a workgroup:
"A workgroup can be a few people or a few hundred; it is the unit responsible for driving results. Workgroups can be formed based on functional areas (the marketing department); divisions within functional areas (the creative group); client; or product line. They can be permanent, or temporarily brought together to achieve a single purpose. Workgroups form their own smaller cosmos within the larger company."??
The goal of the research was to "identify the genes that make up a healthy workgroup."??
They found the genes that distinguish high-performing workgroups. They are:
Optimizing critical thinking
Looks like a simple conclusion, but there’s a lot to each one of these statements.
I think the work that Susan and her team have done is important and should be understood by all managers, leaders, and training/OD/HR professionals.
In the next post I will get into these areas a little deeper, share how this research has been received, and let you know what´s next for Susan and her group. You´ll want to stay tuned!