DFS helps you to become a High Performance Organisation

Nobody knows what “high performance” actually means

Although practically every organisation wants to achieve “high performance”, it remains spectacularly unclear and arbitrary what “high performance” actually is. Typically, a high-performance organisation (HPO) is a term used to describe an organisation that consistently achieves “exceptional” results and “outperforms its peers or industry benchmarks” (e.g., in terms of productivity, profitability, quality, and customer satisfaction).

But this doesn’t explain anything, and it merely defines performance in relative terms. How to know whether something is “exceptional”? What if none of your peers achieves high performance? Does outperforming them automatically mean your organisation is an HPO? And what if you are offering something unique?

Frequently a list of so-called “HPO characteristics” is offered. Such a list typically includes: strong and adaptive leadership, a clear and compelling vision, a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, effective communication and collaboration, employee engagement, the ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances, and effective management practices.

But these are just more words. What do they really mean? When do you know whether leadership is “strong”?  What are “effective management practices” for your organisation? How do you know/build/measure whether you have a culture of continuous improvement, or collaborate effectively, or are able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances? And how does all of this relate to “high-performance”? When do you know you achieved it?

There is, however, an objective (and logical) way to define, identify, and work towards becoming a High-Performance Organisation.

An objective definition of a High-Performance Organisation (HPO)

DFS uses the following definition:

A High-Performance Organisation is an organisation which achieves its organisational goals at minimal risk.

This definition allows for the objective identification of an HPO. It requires two things:

  1. That the organisational goals are defined in such a way that it can be positively affirmed they are (getting) achieved.
  2. That the organisation fully utilises the available expertise in the organisation (as this is how risk gets minimised).

A Decision Free Organisation (DFO) is an organisation which sets out to minimises risk — and to become an HPO

Underlying the approach of Decision Free Solutions (DFS) is a paradigm shift: a clarification of what a ‘decision’ is. Organisations — its employees — make countless decisions each day. Many may be relatively harmless, but, in a typical hierarchical organisation, still quite a few aren’t. These decisions increase the risk organisational goals will not be achieved, or only at a much higher cost.

As explained in On decision making, it only becomes possible to distinguish between decisions which increase risk, and decision which don’t, if we clarify the definition of “decision”. This is required to clearly distinguish a risk-increasing choice (a decision), from an approval, a go-ahead, an inconsequential choice and/or a proposal substantiated by an expert. Only once we can identify those choices which increase risk, can we begin to try to avoid or minimise them.

In “Decision Free Solutions” — as well as in “Decision Free Organisation” — a “decision” is a choice not fully substantiated to contribute to achieving a desired outcome

From this clarification follows that not each and every choice made is a “decision”, but only those which are made in the context of trying to achieve a desired outcome but are not substantiated to actually do so. Decisions, by definition, increase risk, and are to be minimised.

Any organisation which systematically sets out to minimise decision making will minimise risk and increase organisational performance.

A Decision Free Organisation is an organisation which creates and sustains the conditions required to minimise decision making. Any Decision Free Organisation which manages to minimise decision making — which can be objectively determined — is a High-Performing Organisation.

This is how you become an HPO

The paradigm shift of the clarification of the word “decision” provides any organisation with a lens to identify risk — and thus with the opportunity to start minimising or mitigating said risk.

The power of the paradigm shift, lies in the fact that the clarification itself explains how decisions can be minimised:

  1. By defining desired outcomes (at every level within the organisation, from vision/mission to functional tasks to projects, etc.)
  2. By having the capacity (the people, the information) to substantiate choices

In short, a Decision Free Organisation (and thus a High-Performing Organisation):

  • Defines desired outcomes at every organisational level
  • Ensures these desired outcomes are understood the same by all involved
  • Creates the conditions to substantiate choices made, which includes:
    • Stepping away from (unsubstantiated) hierarchical decision making (e.g., manage by approval, see also Decision-free management is not an oxymoron!)
    • Creating a culture where employees feel safe to bring their expertise to the table (as expertise is what allows for substantiations whether a choice/proposal will contribute to a desired outcome)
    • Identifying, Attracting and Developing employees with either the right expertise, or the right characteristics to develop it
    • Assessing the risks associated with decisions which cannot be avoided (e.g., for lack of expertise or lack of time), and then determining whether they need to be mitigated

The approach of Decision Free Solutions provides the logic and the guidelines to achieve all of the above and more, see Introducing the approach of Decision Free Solutions.

Practical first steps for your organisation

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