Pirates & Peak Performers

Pirates & Peak Performers

Navigating today’s sea of competition, attempting to stave off pirates and avoid peak performers, can take a toll on under-performing organizations. Pirates (a.k.a. competitors) will go to great lengths to undercut rates and prices, offering substandard merchandise or second-rate services in an attempt to increase revenues and profits.  Peak performers on the other hand will often take advantage of their status to mass produce new, innovative products at a low cost and offer a wider range of services—often at the expense of its employees and all too often with an inexpensive offshore labor force—to establish a greater market share.

The first step in avoiding the perils of pirates and peak performers is to identify them. This includes taking a step back and objectively assessing the status of your own organization, as well as your own personal commitment. Pirates are easily identifiable, given their aggressive marketing campaigns claiming to deliver cheap, fast and good products and/or services. Peak performers, on the other hand, know the pirate’s business is not sustainable; they choose to avoid them, or destroy them, by offering only two options: cheap and fast. An HpO, however, understands that neither business creates long-term stability, offering only one option to its customers and clientele: good. This is not to say that an HpO cannot be price competitive, or that prompt delivery of its products and services cannot be achieved. On the contrary, because an HpO’s primary focus is strategy plus culture, its good products and services are, by default, cheaper and faster to manufacture and deliver.

To the conscious observer, it may seem that a peak performer would be more profitable than an HpO, that offering good products and services alone would be neither profitable nor sustainable. However, despite both pirates & peak performers claiming good returns (revenues), many cannot claim sustainable profits and growth. Most are inefficient, have high employee turnover, and experience significantly high non-conforming production of products or delivery of services due to a lack of quality control and/or employees’ unengaged, un-trained, inexperienced efforts.

Ironically, that which separates an HpO from pirates and peak performers is the very thing pirates and peak performers want to destroy (while at the same time wish to discover). Pirates and peak performers envy the HpO’s key success factor: its contributing-class culture, low employee turnover, and innovative products and services—a good reason to keep your treasure map under lock and key.

As previously stated, an HpO is a profit or not-for-profit business whose financial and non-financial success is sustainable (with growth), making it desirable for employees, vendors, investors, customers, and communities. An HpO’s culture extends from the society in which it has been established, that is to say, the leader’s strategy and the manager’s culture align with the digger’s desire for recognition through contribution. Any attempt to sink an HpO by pirates and peak performers—by kidnapping its crew, stealing its designs, robbing it of its customers or market share—will therefore be averted under the HpO flag (strategy plus culture).

Embark or Disembark

As I write this passage (as a manager for a peak performing organization), I am contemplating embarking on a new adventure: disembarking from my current full-time position to pursue a personal goal—something I have been moving toward for a number of years—of coaching leaders, managers and diggers in their pursuit to establish a contributing culture within their organization. I mention this only as a reminder that you have a choice. Either you embark on a change initiative to establish an HpO, or you disembark and set sail on another ship (or set sail on your own adventure). Adding value to an organization requires more than simply showing up; passion, desire, enthusiasm are all necessary to establish a win/win contributing culture and an HpO.

As a member of the working-class, I know first-hand how it feels to be controlled by the calendar and the clock, to trade my time for wages as an employee of traditional or peak performing organizations. For many years, I believed that this was the only possible way to survive. I believed that laboring with effort, versus contributing with energy and enthusiasm, for a regular paycheck and employment status defined success. Whether an organization valued my effort, commitment or contribution was not always evident. This left me, at times, wondering if I should embark on a new change initiative, or disembark on a new adventure.

At this time—regardless of your status (leader, manager, or digger)—you may be asking yourself similar questions, while at the same time wondering what you can do to improve your organization’s performance alongside its working-class people. As a leader, you have the advantage of changing and plotting a new course. As a senior manager, you have the advantage of establishing a contributing culture. For the rest of us, however, as working-class people (managers and diggers), the opportunity to enhance performance through change is difficult. Status quo and high employee turnover continue to haunt the shop-floors and cubicles of traditional and peak performing organizations.

It is possible, however. With desire and commitment, working-class people can learn to partially establish an HpO from the bottom-up. Diggers can do this by creating a contributing culture where an increase in safety, quality and efficiency add significant value, regardless of how effective the organization may be. Gradually, as a contributing culture is established, senior managers and leaders will be encouraged to plot a new course to create a profitable and sustainable business (an HpO in its ultimate context).

If you find yourself with one foot on the dock and the other on the gangplank, now is a good time to decide, before we set sail. Should you embark on a new adventure? Or should you disembark and keep your fingers crossed that, when your ship comes in, it’s the HpO Vision captained by a leader as innovative as Captain Cèo?

aton: weather the storm, as long as you’re heading out of it…

Course Headings

  1. Determine which status of employee or contractor best describes you, your role, and your value to the organization: leader, manager or digger?
  2. Determine which type of organization you are currently associated with: pirate, peak performer, traditional, underperformer, HpO.
  3. Determine which culture best describes your current organization: transactional or transformational.
  4. Prepare, either to embark or disembark. Keep in mind, however, you may end up having to walk the plank.
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