What Creates a High Performing Organization

by Sharlyn Lauby on April 15, 2012

Sharing.

That’s right – Sharing. Not sharing staplers or a filing cabinet drawer. I’m talking about sharing information.

I was reading the ASTD research study “The Rise of Social Media: Enhancing Collaboration and Productivity Across Generations” for a presentation I’m putting together on social learning. The report talked about the primary uses of social media in the workplace and it really focused on collaboration as the “thing” social media does exceptionally well.

But here’s what captured my attention:

High-performing organizations are more likely to use shared workspaces and wikis than low-performing firms. Workers at high-performing organizations are also more likely to say that social media boosts collaboration and improves knowledge sharing.

Basically high-performing companies share more knowledge. Having more knowledge makes the company smarter and therefore, perform better. When you add social media tools enhancing the sharing of information…well, everything seems to just fall into place.

social media, sharing, information, high-performing, knowledge, technology, customer service

There’s a lot of conversation about how people “must” be on social media. That it’s “absolutely necessary” for your professional career. The truth is no one can convince you to be active on social media. That’s your decision alone to make.

And, I’ve talked for years about the strategic marketing advantage companies get when they build a presence on social media. It can help with brand awareness, customer service and recruiting.

But now, correlations are being made between an organizations’ overall performance and their ability to share information.  Organizations might currently have great mechanisms in place to share info. What if they can be improved via social media? Would your organization place a value on getting better information quicker? And how would the company feel if their biggest competitor was sharing knowledge in a better, faster way?

I’ve always thought that high-performing companies were the ones that continuously transformed themselves, as in Peter Senge learning organizations. Is it possible social media is part of that transformation? Can employees leverage the sharing of knowledge on social media to achieve personal mastery and therefore the company will learn faster and perform better than its competitors?

In this fast paced, tech savvy society, how will high-performing organizations keep their competitive advantage if it’s not with speed and technology?

Image courtesy of Simutis [Nancy Newell]

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Meredith G. April 15, 2012 at 8:17 am

You know, I’m not sure social media tools are the answer to enabling sharing of information. I think that with the rise of sites like twitter and facebook for example, that we as a society are more isolated than ever in some ways. There are some types of information that just do not get shared in these forms. Non-verbal, personal type things that are part of team-building and group cohesiveness. But for sure, social media can be a part of the mix and valuable tools. Just don’t make them the whole mix, which I can see a lot of people leaning towards.
Meredith G. recently posted..Underwater Welding Jobs

Sanjay Jhunjhunwala April 15, 2012 at 10:52 am

The evidence provided is too sketchy and the conclusion hasty. Sharing of information may be an enabling factor for high performance but not a sufficient factor. While desirable its influence has been over stretched.

Sharlyn Lauby April 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm

@Meredith – Thanks for the comment. You bring up an interesting point about social media creating silos. I agree that social media can’t be exclusive. Then, I struggle when I hear so many people asking for ways to collaborate that are comfortable to them (i.e. social media.)

@Sanjay – Yes, it’s definitely a thought in process. But it does raise the question are the qualities of high performance teams changing with technology? More research is needed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Julia Lichtman April 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I’m a college student taking a Human Resources Management class. I agree that social media can be a great tool within the work place especially when delivering information. However, do you feel that there are some downsides to using social media? I know personally social media is extremely distracting especially when it comes to procrastinating work. Also, if research has shown that it can have a positive impact, why do some companies go out of their way to block such websites from being accessed on company computers?

Patrick D April 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I’m evaluating a couple of different corporate social networking tools right now, but I would say that the main reason we are looking at is because we have a very large percentage, maybe 40% of our employees, who work from home. I’m interested in learning if we can “connect” these employees to the bigger organization, more people, share more ideas, etc., than if they were out there on their own little island.

@Meridith has an interesting point around creating silos with Social Media and I wouldn’t want it to replace face-to-face meetings where they are possible.

Sondra Jenkins April 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Interesting post! I agree with the idea of sharing information as a critical practice or dynamic in s high-performing organization, but I disagree with social media as *the” avenue for sharing information.

It’s not the information on my company’s website or intranet that maximizes my performance effectiveness, it’s the DEEPER exchange of information and ideas with my colleagues. Do we have an environment (and/or a personal commitment) that supports open and free sharing of information about things like: what’s going on in my (functional/dept) world; what are my business/functional goals; how will they contribute to the vision and/or shared goals of our organization; what I need from others; what I can offer that might be helpful to others; what’s working, what’s not; public applause of others; transparent communications of problems experienced and lessons learned — THAT type of shared information will help us to collaborate at a deeper level, more effectively leverage the synergy of our shared contributions, and help us avoid unintentionally hindering or interfering with the contributions of others.

Sharlyn Lauby April 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm

@Julia – When it comes to social media, I believe in accountability. You have to hold yourself accountable for using it and still getting all of your other obligations done. And companies need to hold employees accountable for the same. Sometimes I wonder if blocking websites is an easy way not to hold people accountable. Which ultimately doesn’t work, because employees just use their phone. Thanks for the comment.

@Patrick – I’m hearing a lot right now about social collaboration tools. The challenge as I see it is moving the social part to real life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

@Sondra – Totally agree. I still wonder though can social media open the door to the deeper discussions you mention? Especially with virtual teams. Thanks for the comment!

Deanna Layton April 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Crowdsourcing and having a vigorous social network brings another dimension to collaboration within the workplace. Now, I can bring thoughtleaders, authors, and colleagues into the mix by asking a question or getting feedback via social media channels. The depth and usefulness of a team member’s social network should be a consideration when building collaborative work teams – considering the ability to use networks to solve problems is a critical innovation skill.

Enjoyed your post.

@deannalayton
@deannalayton

Julia Lichtman April 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I agree that blocking websites can be a form of an easy way to not hold people accountable. I also agree that people will find a way to do what they want, even if there are restrictions ie) use their phone as opposed to the computer. But do you think there are ways that companies can somehow control/monitor social media in the work place? For example perhaps have a company twitter, facebook, four square etc as opposed to letting the individuals use their own personal accounts?

Sharlyn Lauby April 17, 2012 at 7:31 am

@Deanna – Interesting point about considering a person’s social network when building teams. I know we think about a person’s skills in teambuilding…but do we think about the resources they bring as well. Thanks for sharing!

@Julia – I’ve always been of the mindset that making social media forbidden will make people want it more. My thought is give people access, set expectations, train to those expectations and then hold people accountable. If employees don’t want to use it, don’t force it. But if they do participate, then do it responsibly.

Andy Jankowski April 20, 2012 at 9:45 am

Hi Sharlyn, I really like this post. I think it (possibly inadvertently) illustrates a couple of very important points. To reep the full benefits of enterprise social media a company needs to have, or be actively promoting, a culture of sharing. Also, the age of internal information hoarding and silos is (hopefully) quickly coming to a close. Thanks again for the great post.

Sharlyn Lauby April 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Excellent points. Thanks for the comment Andy.

Ruhi Desai November 15, 2012 at 2:16 am

Hi,
Your content is quite informative and resourceful regarding the issues of high performing organizations. However a high performance organization is an enterprise which is more successful than its competitors in areas such as profitability, customer service and strategy. The processes and practices should be constantly refined and renewed by gathering latest insights as they progress.
Please visit our Blogs to share your views with us
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Thanks and Regards,
Ruhi Desai,
Senior Business Development Manager @ Sapience Analytics Pvt Ltd

Vincent Churchil February 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I would say, an organization that has complete control and maintains a good relationship with its employees is said to be a successful or high performing organization.

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