Strong leadership is focal to High Performance Organizations

The rapid changes of the competitive environment of companies today require them to become increasingly nimble and flexible – and transform into high performance organizations (HPOs).


An analysis of 91 different studies into high performance organisations (de Waal, 2012) revealed not just a few, but a range of different characteristics in reference to leadership, organizational design, structure, processes, technology, people, culture and the external environment impacting an organization’s ability to become an HPO.

So, what exactly separates High Performance Organizations from their peers?

Based on research conducted by the Institute of Corporate Productivity (, Rex Albright have identified five key characteristics that separate higher-performing organizations from their lower-performing counterparts:


  • Leadership – the leadership of HPOs work structured and systematically with their talent platform – and are not afraid of differentiating between high, average and low performers. Leaders in HPOs are more likely to promote the best people for any given job, clearly communicate expectations and support an open and learning work environment.  HPOs recognize that there are four layers of high performance: Leader, Employee, Team and Organization, and that each layer must be addressed separately and interdependently (see figure below). Finally, leaders in HPOs, they are seen as focal in the development of a company with a key role in creating a sense of belief among employees and teams recognizing that their behaviour affect the organization as a whole.

  • Strategies – the strategies of HPOs are clear and well thought through, they are also more consistent, and organization-wide performance measures match the organization’s strategy. The publically announced and thus legitimized strategy is also the same strategy that is executed upon. Finally, HPOs are consistent in both their internal and external communication of the strategy.

  • Processes & Structures – the entire organization is structured around an outside-in rather than inside-out perspective. They constantly preach to its employees, to ensure that their business decisions and priorities are structured around the critical path of the company. The organization’s performance measures are clearly defined, and structured training programs are supplied to employees to build skill and competencies. Finally, these organizations are often data-driven, holistically orientated and continuously look to build sustainable competitive advantages.


  • Culture - the culture of HPO’s emphasizes a readiness to meet new challenges, and shared values keep the organization together. The culture is employee-focused, highly communicative, change orientated and development driven (skills, competencies, motivation etc.). Finally, the culture and strategy is well aligned and the culture implicitly promotes the best man/woman for the job.


  • Market focus – HPO’s have a strong customer and market focus. In fact, they accurately target the long-term needs of their customer’s and use customer insights as a key factor in developing new products and services. They are also clearly branded and positioned and have developed superior value propositions. Finally, they tend to exceed customer’s expectations and also know their competitors like the back of their pocket.


HPOs generally outperform their competitors simply by making a better strategic use of their resources. They employ superior strategic performance management by setting clear goals and measuring progress towards goal achievement. Finally, the leaders, employees, teams and organizations channel their efforts to customer-focused goals and continuously adapt the organization to market needs and opportunities

Article by Henrik Brabrand, CEO - Rex I Albright

Rex I Albright A/S

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DK-1260 Copenhagen