What is Organizational Performance?

Business thinking tends to the binary (culture vs. strategy; people vs. process; agile vs. waterfall). Leaders, managers, and consultants perpetuate that belief because no one wants to hear “it’s more complicated than that.”

The world isn’t binary. It isn’t binary because it isn’t either or, and it isn’t binary because there are more than two choices. It’s more complicated but it’s also a lot richer, and has a lot more possibilities for anyone patient enough to really understand the full range of impacts and options.

An Organizational Performance framework acknowledges that complexity at its roots. Organizational Performance understands organizations and environments are messy multi-body realities.

Managing the performance of an organization considers at least four elements:

  1. Culture
  2. Standardization (processes and standards)
  3. Communication
  4. Continuous improvement

The Goal

The goal of Organizational Performance is to grow value for customers or stakeholders by improving alignment between people, processes, and purpose. To do that we seek to understand, align, and improve the impact of those four elements.


A strong and healthy culture is a foundation for the success of everything else in an organization. The approach we use borrows heavily from Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code. I have modified Coyle’s language slightly in describing the cultural foundation required, from Coyle’s Trust, Purpose, and Belonging, to Safety, Purpose, and Belonging.

In our work we review and improve organizational design, communication, and leadership elements that increase psychological safety, connection with personal and organizational purpose, and belonging in both a psychological sense and an EDI sense.

While success in Organizational Performance is impossible without cultural health, a healthy culture in turn requires the other elements to be healthy.


Standardization drives consistency and cost control by standardizing processes, and supports both culture and continuous improvement by establishing transparent and consistent standards at every level of the organization.

Standardization is a precondition for effective knowledge transfer, and for a healthy culture. We can’t train what hasn’t been standardized. As well, human beings do not thrive in arbitrary, chaotic environments. Misalignment at this level is often experienced as hypocrisy and can breed cynicism. This level of mis-alignment decreases psychological safety, and erodes connection, performance and innovation.


Communication covers all of the ways information is communicated and the ways humans interact.

Effective organizational communication has both passive/pull elements like data and document storage and retrieval systems, wikis, dashboards; and active/push elements like meetings, training, coaching, and mentoring.

Communication is the nervous system of the Organizational Performance operating system. Well designed and well managed, it nourishes a healthy culture, sustains and develops standards, and acts like sonar in keeping us oriented.

Continuous Improvement

Drawing on a fundamentally circular and iterative interaction with reality, ‘tools’ like the PDCA cycle, Continuous Improvement or Kaizen, are the paradigm for growth in Organizational Performance.

Continuous improvement is the process of incrementally but continually improving all elements of an organization, including the elements of organizational performance itself: culture, standardization, and communication. It is how an organization continually grows and adapts at the speed of required change. It is how to be sustainable and remain relevant.

Like the other elements, continuous improvement has a symbiotic relationship with every other piece. Above all it requires a healthy culture because ultimately, continuous improvement is not a methodology. It is a system of values in action; a way of life. Continuous improvement requires a blame-free culture in which failures are treated as gifts and people feel safe to surface failures, and to risk being innovative. Continuous improvement also requires standardized processes and a rich communication environment to work.


Questions about Organizational Performance? Send me a message.

Want to go further down the rabbit hole? Where’s the revolution?

About the Author

Clemens Rettich

I am an organizational consultant and educator with over 20 years of experience in supporting the improvement of organizations and organizational management across North America. I work at the intersection of people, systems, and change with a human-culture-first mindset that values joy, innovation, and collaboration. As a teaching professor at the University of Victoria's Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, I teach in the areas of leadership and organizational behaviour. In my work I explore the nature of the human organization in a post-colonial, post-technocratic society. I hold an MBA (Leadership and Organizations), and an undergraduate degree in music (Musicology, Performance). My areas of practice include management and leadership, organizational behaviour, process improvement, organizational change, and talent development and training.
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