Book report: Primed to Perform – The Torch of Performance


Reading notes by Yan Tougas

If organizations managed their finances like they manage their culture, there would be no CFOs, no GAAP, no forecasts, no plans.  Culture – something we claim to be a highly valuable asset – is unmanaged.  There is no Chief Culture Office, no metrics, no common language, no way to tell if a new initiative is helping or hurting the culture, no way to know if we are dealing with root causes or symptoms.

ToMo analysis can help.  It includes 5 steps:

  1. Calculate the organizations’ ToMo factor.  Ask everyone to complete the survey.  Keep answers anonymous.  ToMo is a diagnostic tool, not a score (scores are used to judge performance; judging increases emotional pressure and reduces play – it hurts performance).  If you link ToMo to other metrics, make sure they are long-term and holistic metrics.  Calculate ToMo every 6 to 12 months.
  2. Test your theory.  Choose areas of the organization where adaptive performance is most critical, e.g. customer-facing employees, product quality, extreme risks, areas where “cobra farms” would be most dangerous.
  3. Choose the right keys.  The ones that matter most are below (and each has its own chapter later in the book):
    1. Leadership.  A person’s boss can make or break her experience.  It is easier for a leader to destroy ToMo than to create it.
    2. Identity.  The second most powerful key, which includes the organization’s mission, behavioral code, traditions.
    3. Role design.  The most powerful key.  Designing each and every job to balance tactical and adaptive performance to maximize ToMo.  Like identity, almost never actively managed.
    4. Career paths.  When only the strongest employees survive the fight up the ladder, ToMo suffers.
    5. Compensation.  Compensation must celebrate growth.
    6. Community.  Strong work communities inspire play and purpose, allowing vulnerability, which reduces emotional pressure.
    7. Performance management.  Traditional systems focus on tactical performance only, using emotional and economic pressure to produce results.
  4. Set an aspirational ToMo.  A good goal is 15 points above industry/competitors.
  5. Develop a plan and business case.  ToMo can be measured and linked to business outcome.  We can calculate the impact of ToMo on these outcomes.  With this economic connection,  we can set investment levels that can be tracked to better performance.

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