Book Review: “Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage” by Scott Keller and Colin Price
This is an outstanding book that should become a classic for its extensive research on leadership and organization effectiveness. It’s based on “surveys on the drivers of organizational performance and health from more than 600,000 respondents from 500 organizations across the globe, surveys on the experience of transformational change from more than 6,800 CEOs and senior executives, reviews of more than 900 books and articles from academic journals, one-on-one interviews… the culmination of one of the most extensive research efforts ever undertaken in this area.”
In Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage Keller and Price reinforce the decades of accumulating research showing that roughly 70% of organizational change programs fail. Central to that high failure rate are huge shortfalls in developing the “soft skills” of leadership and culture. This is what the authors mean by going beyond performance (“what an enterprise delivers to its stakeholders in financial and operational terms”) to organizational health (“the ability of an organization to align, execute, and renew itself”.)
Beyond Performance is misnamed. The book should really be entitled “Healthy Performance.” Keller and Price provide strong and well reasoned arguments — underpinned by their massive research — for balancing hard performance results with soft health factors. Highly effective organizations have both. This balancing of management versus leadership is central to The CLEMMER Group’s work and the foundation of The Leader’s Digest (as introduced in Chapter One.)
But it’s through the so-called “soft skills” (that can be very hard to implement) that teams and organizations get results; “… change programs with clearly defined aspirations for both performance and health are 4.4 times more likely to be extremely successful than those with clear aspirations for performance alone… “. Although balancing both management and leadership is critical (I often liken it to asking which wing of the plane you’d like to do without), Keller and Price focus on health because their research overwhelming shows “most companies already know how to keep an eye on performance; it’s their health that more often suffers from neglect.”
Beyond Performance is full of examples and practical advice. A very useful feature of the book is its implementation models and frameworks. A central model is the “five frames” they call the “5As” with chapters organized around each one:
Aspire: Where do we want to go?
Assess: How ready are we to go there?
Architect: What do we need to do to get there?
Act: How do we manage the journey?
Advance: How do we keep moving forward?
Keller and Price go on to identify, “three attributes of organizational health; internal alignment, quality of execution, and capacity for renewal.” These are supported and sustained with “a definition of organizational health that consists of nine elements that combine in different ways to support and sustain them:
3. Culture and Climate
5. Coordination and Control
8. External orientation
9. Innovation and Learning”
I must confess; a big reason I love Beyond Performance is because it provides such deep research and further validation to the leadership and organization development approaches we’ve used successfully for three decades. When used as directed, this works! In fact, the authors should be much stronger in their writing style, conclusions, and advice. The editing should have been tighter to eliminate redundant words, awkward sentences, and waffling phrases.
I highly recommend Beyond Performance to leaders looking for transformation pathways to peak performance. It’s also an extremely useful field guide for human resources, organization development, senior safety, lean, or service/quality professionals and similar senior support executives building healthier and higher-performing organizations.
For over 30 years, Jim Clemmer’s practical leadership approaches have been inspiring action and achieving results. He has delivered thousands of keynote presentations, workshops, and management team retreats to hundreds of organizations around the globe moving his audiences from inspiration to application. He’s listed in the World’s Top 30 Most Influential Leadership Gurus based on research with 22,000 global business people, consultants, academics and MBAs. His website is www.JimClemmer.com.