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One Possible Path to Organizational

Performance Improvement


In this brief overview of CCHPO’s work with organizations, we’ve outlined a ‘typical’ sequence of steps we’ve used in the past to help organizations improve their performance in both the short- and long-term. On the other hand, almost no organization we’ve encountered has turned out to be ‘typical’. In virtually every organization, forces and events are happening constantly, which rarely match our ‘typical’ sequence. The good news seems to be that it doesn’t seem to matter, in the long run, where the organization starts in the material, as long as it eventually addresses all the parts of the sequence.

For example, if visioning/strategic planning is already underway, then our material allows a way to view that work to see if it needs ‘freshening’ and to evaluate the degree to which the scheduled work is being executed on budget and on schedule with the required level of effectiveness and quality throughout the organization. Our work would also prepare the organization and its units for the next round of strategic/tactical planning. Similarly, if values work has already been done, then we’d want to see what steps have been taken to ‘implement’ the values, provide feedback for those having difficulty in living the values, and provide coaching for managers on how to employ the values to get engagement or to get ‘resolution’ for those who can’t or won’t live the values. Our intention would be to enable members of the workforce itself, with some coaching from CCHPO, to conduct many of the steps outlined; indeed, creation of a cadre of organizational development/change agents is a key strategy for sustained organizational improvement.

An outline of a ‘typical’ sequence, however, can help organizations determine where to begin in the process; here’s one option:

  1. The Building High-Performance Organizations (HPO) seminar, coupled with an Interview/ Assessment information gathering process, would be conducted for the senior leadership team (SLT), sometimes augmented by ‘fast runners’ from different parts of the organization, as decided by the SLT. At the outset of an engagement, we often interview all members of the senior leadership team in one-on-one sessions, lasting about an hour and a quarter each. We also include interviews with 4 or 5 ‘focus groups’ from a cross-section of the organization, lasting about an hour and a half each. Finally, we ask all individuals we interview (as individuals or focus group members) to complete our HPO Organizational Self-Assessment (HPO OSA) instrument. The HPO OSA gives us a sense of the level of ‘capability maturity’ in the organization and can suggest the most pressing ‘next steps’ to address. The HPO seminar introduces a ‘roadmap’ to improve organizational performance, called the HPO Diagnostic/Improvement Model (the HPO Model or just the Model). Using a highly interactive approach, we ‘build’ the change model during the seminar. Our goal is to have every member of leadership team share an understanding of ‘how we got like we are’, why our workforce thinks and acts as it does – what it believes to be the ‘job contract’ when they arrive at work, and what are the ‘change levers’ available to move the organization toward higher performance. We also produce ‘product’ during the seminar, specifically a shared Leadership Philosophy for the organization. We’d argue that creation of a shared Leadership Philosophy (one that is also implemented and enforced) is perhaps the most critical part of an organization’s values work – if we don’t get the Leadership Philosophy ‘right’, then it is unlikely that anything else the organization does will have a lasting effect. Note that these two events – the interview/assessment process and the seminar can be done in either order – seminar first or interview/assessment first – depending on the organization’s preference.

  2. Out of the interviews, assessment instrument, and seminar, we frequently find that work with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) itself would be useful. Teams, as a rule, are less ‘mature’ than the individuals who make them up, because they have not gone through a focused team development process to function smoothly together. We’ve found that moving from a ‘siloed, representative-of-my-unit’ approach to a more ‘Board of Directors (BOD), stewardship’ mindset is critical to SLT and, ultimately, organizational success. Our thought would be to introduce team development tools to the SLT and the organization in a ‘rifle shot’ fashion (i.e., only when the team/unit suggests or agrees with our recommendations that the tools are necessary to achieve effective team/unit functioning). These tools could include: Russ Linden’s Conditions for Collaboration, David Rock’s work in neuroscience on risk and reward and how it affects member engagement (SCARF), Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team (trust-> conflict-> commitment-> accountability-> results), team-based simulations, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or other personal self-assessment instrument; Critical Conversations, facilitation skills, facilitative leadership, team problem-solving and decision-making, and other similar tools. While CCHPO has these skills and tools, we would also hope that some of the organization’s HR staff, trainers, OD professionals, Lean facilitators, or other interested individuals within the organization or in the local community already have some of these skills and tools as well. The skills/tools could also be transferred via train-the-trainer and apprentice mentoring to a ‘change agent network’. Since these tools/capabilities will be needed as the process is implemented in other levels of the organization, it is critical that the tools/capabilities move in house. The interview/assessment process will provide substantial information as to the senior team’s view of the need (or lack of need) for this step. If needed, it could run in parallel with the following steps.

  3. Relatively soon after the Interview/Assessment process and the HPO seminar (which is our ONLY extended ‘teaching-type’ session), we typically embark on a series of workshops to facilitate the Senior Leadership Team through the various parts of the HPO Diagnostic/Improvement Model©. The first set of workshops, called Vision to Performance (V2P) workshops, provide the SLT with the raw material to create or freshen its Vision, Mission, Strategic Plan, Tactical/Implementation Plan, and Performance Management process. The second set of workshops, called the Values to Work Culture (V2WC) workshop, will not only create or freshen the organization’s values work (Leadership Philosophy, Individual Behavioral Values, and Operating Systems Values), but will also take the values work beyond “mounting them on the wall for everyone to see” into implementation, feedback, coaching, and resolution. Without this last part of the values process, the organization’s work culture is rarely affected in the long run—and, indeed, not following through on values implementation often causes an increase in cynicism. Generally, we also need to provide coaching/consulting support for these sequences. Since these same sequences will need to run in the Leadership Teams of Departments, Divisions, Units, and Cross-Functional Work Teams (if your structure is multi-layered), we would want to begin early training/mentoring the change agent cadre to conduct these workshops.

  4. In order to transfer the performance improvement tools into the organization for sustained implementation, an approach is needed for the identification, recruitment, and development of a network of in-house resources capable of sustaining the Organizational Development (OD), Project and Change Management (PM-CM), and Process Improvement (PI) efforts. CCHPO believes that part of our obligation is to leave an organization with the capacity to sustain the improvement process long-term. Depending on the size of the organization, our experience suggests that at least one member of this network needs to be a full-time Organizational Development (OD) professional with deep analytical experience in performance/process improvement. We also suggest that this individual be located in the senior manager’s office (rather than in HR) and be at least an ex officio member of the SLT. Other members of the change network may be collateral duty individuals in key departments who are interested in the improvement process and can operate as a resource cadre across the organization, coordinated by the OD person. HR personnel need to be included as central players in this network, since HR’s personnel, training, and individual coaching/mentoring processes will be critical in developing the capability maturity of the workforce.

  5. Indeed, without the enthusiastic support of both the senior management and the HR/personnel/ training/OD function, it is unlikely that changing the workforce’s view of the nature of their obligations to the organization will be successful. Further, moving from job/position descriptions based on ‘task lists’ toward ‘competency-based’ descriptions, which include leadership, management, technical, and team/network skills, will be critical. Tools that we use to begin to effect these changes include Lominger’s Leadership Architect materials for building ‘success profiles’. For example, we recently worked with the public works/utilities/environmental functions of a county government to create role/success profiles for Executives, Section Heads/Managers, and Supervisors. This work included the Leadership Team of the department and selected representative of all levels of the organization. The intention was to create a customized Lominger VOICES feedback instrument (to be combined with CCHPO’s Leadership Philosophy [values] Questionnaire) to be used for coaching and IDP development. This work is also being integrated with HR to include job descriptions and all other HR functions (recruitment, training and development, appraisal, promotion, retention, etc.). Unfortunately, our experience often finds that HR departments report being swamped with other pressing issues and, if forced to make a choice between critical near-term demands and longer-term systemic improvement efforts, it will frequently choose to address the near-term demands. This may need addressing in the improvement process. On the positive side, our experience also says that when HR systems, policies, and practices begin to change, the workforce will believe that senior management is serious about changing the work culture; it is the most visible sign that things are happening.

  6. A plan for taking the Interview/Assessment process, the HPO seminar, Vision to Performance (V2P), and Values to Work Culture (V2WC) workshops and supporting coaching and consulting support to all appropriate levels would need to be developed. We find that it is virtually impossible for any organization to ‘swallow’ the entire change process ‘elephant’ at one sitting. As a result, following the Senior Leadership Team’s engagement of this process, it is often useful to use a ‘pilot unit’ approach, with one or two departments testing the process; we would also use this approach to train the in house cadre of change agents to do this work.

  7. Finally, based on the Interview/Assessment, seminar, and V2P/WC workshops, it may be necessary to build organizational capability, competencies, and maturity. Whether supported by CCHPO, HR, or other local resources, the following developmental activities may be required to support the improvement process:

  • Understanding Business Models/Value Propositions

  • Organizational Performance Measurement and Tactics Management Process

  • Project/Change Management (rudiments need to be understood at all levels)

  • Process Improvement Tools (e.g., Lean, 6 Sigma, Theory of Constraints), Change Discipline, Implementation, and Empowerment

  • Integration of Leadership Philosophy and Shared Values into Organizational Systems and Processes

  • Team Skills: facilitation, problem solving/decision making in groups, facilitative leadership, chartering, knowledge of personal learning/communications styles, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, etc.

  • Systems Thinking/Causal Reasoning/Mental Models

  • Creating the Conditions for Collaboration and Workforce Engagement


For more information, see:

  • Figure 1 for a basic view of the HPO Diagnostic/Improvement Model

  • Figure 2 for a brief description of the Building High-Performance Organizations seminar

  • Figure 3 for an overview of ‘implementation’ workshops to put the HPO model into action























This seminar is concerned with the theory and practice of organizational change management and performance improvement. It assumes that: (1) after years of observation, seminar participants are ‘experts’ on their own organizations, but (2) they may not have been exposed to an organizational theory background and so need a framework (a diagnostic change model and analytical approach) to structure and amplify their knowledge and suggest how to use it to effect desired change, and (3) they want to be part of a positive change process, continually driving their organizations toward becoming ‘high-performing organizations’ (defined as simultaneously delivering appropriate product and service quality with excellent execution quality, outstanding customer value, and sound financial performance—‘Pick 3’).


The organizational improvement approach that forms the basis of this seminar seeks to “cast a net” over what has been learned from the past 100 years of academic theory and practical organizational applications and to synthesize that knowledge base into a diagnostic change model explaining why some organizations are high performers while many are not. The seminar does not attempt to “tell an organization what’s wrong with it” or to deliver a ‘cookbook’ of what to do to improve it. Rather, the seminar introduces a series of ‘lenses’ through which participants can view their organizations and decide for themselves what changes may be necessary to improve its performance.

We start by asking the question “how did we get like this as an organization?” This question begins the HPO diagnostic process; we believe that it is critical to understand how organizations got to be as they are, so we can decide what we want to keep from our inherited past and what needs to be changed. Depending on when the organization was formed, we may find that the support systems and work processes of the organization date from an earlier era; and while they may have been sufficient in that earlier period, they will not be capable of taking us successfully into the future. We conclude by examining the evolving ‘nature of work:’ the mindsets, competency-based skills and abilities, and expectations of individuals if they are to function successfully in the future – most critically, we will redefine ‘leadership’ and find that we need everyone at every level of the organization to help get the ‘work of leadership’ done.

We then turn our focus to asking such ‘outcome-oriented’ questions as: "What is high performance for us," "How would we know if we were high performance," "According to whom are we high performance," and "Why do we want to be high performing in the first place?" But we will also look inside the organization to ask: "What are the key change levers available to help us move the organization toward higher performance?" Finally, we ask: “Are we doing the right ‘what,’” “How good are we at it,” and “How should we treat each other, our business partners, and our stakeholders?”

Because this seminar is based on a change approach and materials designed for use by ‘intact’ work teams over a relatively long period of time, the seminar will not try to cover all parts of the change model in detail. Rather, we will begin with a thorough overview of the model's six interdependent change levers and seven key diagnostic questions and then focus our time primarily on the first lever: the critical nature of organizational leadership. Experience has shown that unless an organization gets leadership “right,” nothing else “downstream" in the model matters.

Organizational leadership in the HPO model will not be defined the same as ‘individual leadership’ or as just ‘top management,’ as in most management books and courses. Rather, for us, leadership will be defined as consisting of three parts: (1) a belief set -- a leadership philosophy -- about the nature of people and their attitudes toward work, about how people are motivated, about the distribution of knowledge and creativity and how we make decisions, and about how we see the nature of work; (2) a set of functions -- the ‘work of leadership’ -- that must be performed at all levels of an organization if the organization is to become high-performance, including Strategic Stakeholder Value Analysis; Vision/Values implemented through our Strategy/Business Model, Organizational Structure, and support/work Systems; Suprasystems Integration/ Stewardship; Learning/ Thinking/Changing/ Renewing; and Enabling/ Empowering/ Enabling/ Energizing, and (3) a new set of ‘leadership forms’ -- formal and informal ways to share power -- required to get the work of leadership done. In the process of exploring organizational leadership, we'll discover the need for a fundamental ‘mental model’ or ‘paradigm’ shift by everyone in the organization -- moving our ‘mental view of organizations’ from the older, steeply hierarchical, autocratic, control-oriented, traditional industrial model to a more inclusive, less-hierarchical, team-based ‘networked talent model’. Those who help get the work of leadership done at their level of the organization are ‘leaders’, those who don’t are just top managers, or middle managers, or first-level contributors. Leadership must be getting done at all levels of the organization, regardless of formal positional authority.

The other five change levers -- vision, values, strategy, structure, and systems -- will be discussed as outgrowths of this first (leadership) lever. Participants in the seminar will be asked to help direct the flow of the material presented to best meet their needs. We will use applied examples of how the model is being used by teams in actual client organizations to help guide their change efforts. Clients include federal government organizations (e.g., the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare System Command (SPAWAR), its Naval Aviation Command (NAVAIR), and its Fleet Readiness Center-Southwest (FRCSW); the Marine Corp System Command (MCSC); the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine; and NASA’s Chief Financial Officer’s executive team, Armstrong Flight Research Center, Ames Research Center, and Langley Research Center), municipal governments (e.g., the Cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth and the Counties of Arlington and Fairfax in Virginia; Pinellas and Sarasota Counties in Florida; the Cities of Bainbridge Island, Bellevue, Issaquah, and Redmond in Washington; the Cities of Dublin and Montgomery in Ohio, and the City of Guelph, Ontario, Canada), and private sector organizations (e.g., Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, Irving Shipbuilding-Canada, and American Airlines).

A key assumption of the HPO model and change process is that participants must gain the theory/practice-based ‘profound knowledge’ and skills to diagnose their own organizations in order to begin identifying opportunities for introducing positive change. Although some discussion of implementation techniques (e.g., high-involvement work teams, re-engineering, ABC/BPR, Lean/6 Sigma/Theory of Constraints, etc.) will be included in the seminar, the majority of class discussion will center on the HPO Principles, which must be mastered in order to make any of the ‘techniques/tools’ work and on the creation of the roadmap for ‘next steps’.



  • WHERE WORK NEEDS TO BE DONE IN ORGANIZATIONS: Here, we take a step back to view the organization as a whole. From this perspective, work is found to be needed at all levels of the organization: first‑level units must work on doing the "work of leadership" at their level while exposing themselves to rapid learning in “business/management fundamentals;” mid‑level networks of units and departments must begin the process of improving the organization's work and support processes, and the top of the organization must build an effective leadership/management team that demands that all levels help with the improvement process. This module is used as an introduction to the work required following the seminar.

  • THE VISION TO PERFORMANCE WORKSHOPS AND SUPPORTING CONSULTATION: This module is an ‘applied’ set of team exercises designed to conduct leadership teams and work groups through the HPO Model’s ‘Vision to Performance’ cycle following the seminar. This workshop answers Key Diagnostic Questions 1-6.

  • THE VALUES TO WORK CULTURE WORKSHOP: This module is an ‘applied’ set of team exercises designed to conduct leadership teams and working groups through the HPO Model’s ‘Values to Work Culture’ cycle following the seminar. This workshop answers Key Diagnostic Questions 2 and 7.

For more information, contact us at:

HPO Model.jpg
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