Exceptional excellence

Image by William Gallardo from Pixabay

You can have exceptional staff who are performing beyond expectations and still have an underperforming department or organisation.

Over the years I have worked for and worked with a range of oranisations looking at strategy

When you have a poor performing department, you can still have exceptional staff within that department. 

The problem with conflating this is that staff are then penalised for poor or ineffective management of the department.

This is explored in this blog post on misunderstanding excellence, which explores the concept that excellence of an organisation is not dependent on the excellence of its parts.

The excellence of an organisation is not dependent on the excellence of its parts.

Why does this happen?

Well part of the problem is that personal objectives are set independently and often not as part of a co-ordinated plan. As a result individual members of staff can achieve (and surpass) their objectives. However as they don’r relate or directly contribute to the objectives of the department, the department can fail to achieve its required objectives. So you have have outstanding staff and a poor performing department.

Similarly you can have a departmental strategy which is independent of the corporate strategy. So you can have successful departments, but not a successful organisation. Often you find that support or professional services are particulate good at setting departmental objectives that have no bearing on the strategic direction of the organisation.

So when it comes to working this out, who is responsible?

Well you could say the departmental lead, but I do think it is deeper than that, as you can also have excellent departments, but a poor performing organisation, for basically the same reasons as outlined for individuals. An added factor is often departments writing their operational plan and then mapping it it to strategic objectives. This is done so that departments can then say (and believe) they are contributing to the strategic objectives of the organisation. One of the results of this though can be be duplication (different parts of the organisation undertaking the same activities), it can also mean that certain aspects of the strategy are not done, or the underpinning requirements are missed, resulting in departments being doomed to fail, or at least underperform.

So what is the solution?

Just understanding the various relationships between personal, departmental and organisational objectives would help. Recognising the dependencies and underpinning objectives required to achieve objectives would also be helpful.

Finally do the organisational strategic objectives work for the organisation? Does the organisation know what is required to achieve them? That is something that can be missed or more often people assume that they know what is required and that what they assume is required is the same as everyone else. That assumption needs to be challenged.