“We are in the middle of one of the most profound shifts in human history, where the primary work of mankind is moving from the Industrial Age of “control” to the Knowledge Worker Age of “release.”

– Stephen R Covey

For centuries people have organised themselves into collective groups. We all know that when we work together, it is possible to achieve more security and satisfaction than we can alone as individuals.

But, somewhere in our pursuit of higher-performing organisations, this intuition got lost in favour of a focus on cost and efficiency. Multiple business and economic failures led to a new drive toward consumer satisfaction. A focus on creating more consumer value has proven to be somewhat successful. However, many implementations of approaches like Six Sigma, TQM, Quality Circles, Lean, TOC and Agile have failed to deliver the expected results.

As we move out of the ‘Industrial Age’ and into the ‘Knowledge Age’ there is a slowly emerging understanding that we need to listen to our intuition. We need to create environments where we can work together, learn from each other, bring our contribution to the table and achieve greater collective satisfaction.

Sustainable High Performance is achieved by creating a synergy between increasing Consumer Value, providing a Culture that is safe, secure and satisfying for employees, and maintaining Commercial Responsibility.

Engagement is when the people closest to the consumer are directly and actively involved in solving problems that hinder the performance for that consumer.

High Performance through Engagement is when those people who are closest to the consumer use, as a matter of habit, analytical problem solving tools and structured processes to identify the root cause of problems, find solutions to those problems and then implement quickly to increase value to consumers.

High Performance through Engagement is a strategy for developing a work system that: 

  • is consumer-focused
  • uses analytical problem solving processes like Interest Based Problem Solving, the Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes and design thinking
  • meets the interests of all stakeholders
  • has open and real-time information systems
  • is performance-driven with continuous improvement metrics
  • is employee-based and relies on the discretionary effort of employees
  • has a management system that facilitates and releases intuition, knowledge and experience from employees
  • is focused on building constructive thinking, behaviour and cultures
  • has an emphasis on training, developing and growing people
  • is innovative, dynamic and flexible

There are multiple ways to build this work system. 

Your organisation is unique because the people in it are unique. A high-performance work system must be customised and designed for your organisation by the people in your organisation. In most cases, it can be funded within the existing resources of the organisation.

High Performance through Engagement is not for everyone. It requires “courageous leadership” (think Brené Brown – Dare to Lead) and a willingness to embrace a new way of operating.

The benefits of High Performance through Engagement are increased customer loyalty, increased financial performance and a culture of innovation and growth. There are numerous case studies published by both the private and public sectors as well as multiple University studies of the impact of adopting a High Performance through Engagement approach. The evidence is overwhelming that the improvement in performance that comes from a culture of engagement substantially improves the overall operating performance of an organisation.

What is an HPtE Strategy®?

An HPtE Strategy® is an organisation strategy that finds synergy between commercial responsibility, consumer value and culture to create sustainable high performance.

An HPtE Strategy® evaporates the tension and conflict between people in order to release their full potential.

It deliberately creates a culture of collaboration, innovation, confidence and achievement. It focuses on creating harmony inside an organisation. From harmony comes flow. This harmony is needed more than ever in a fast-changing, complex, variable and global work environment.

Some of the key methodologies include:

  • Systems thinking (e.g. Interest-Based Problem-Solving and Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes),
  • Continuous improvement practices (e.g. Agile, Lean and Six-Sigma),
  • Collaborative budgeting,
  • Culture and behavioural assessments (e.g. Organisational Culture Inventory®, Organisational Effectiveness Inventory®, Group Styles Inventory™, Leadership Impact® and Life Styles Inventory™).

An HPtE Strategy® goes beyond the traditionally separated commercially driven, continuous improvement or culture-based initiatives. Companies that pursuit an HPtE Strategy® do one thing significantly differently than other companies. They leverage the power of collective problem solving to deliver the needs of shareholders, consumers and employees.

An HPtE Strategy® is not:

  • A financial strategy (although it impacts commercial returns)
  • A continuous improvement strategy (although it utilises continuous improvement methodologies)
  • A culture strategy (although it has a significant impact on culture)
  • An HR or ER strategy (although it impacts HR and ER)
  • An “Engagement Survey” (although it utilises robust and reliable psychological assessment tools)
  • An industrial relations strategy (although it impacts industrial and labour/management relationships)
  • A form of autocracy or industrial democracy (although it leverages the strengths of both ideologies)

An HPtE Strategy® embeds powerful systems thinking and problem solving processes into the very fabric of an organisation. It recognises and leverages the inherent tension between satisfying the needs of shareholders, consumers and employees.

Through constant discovery, organisations find new and innovative ways to deliver more commercial responsibility, more consumer value AND a safer, secure and more satisfying work environment for people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

Maori proverb

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5 thoughts on “What is High Performance through Engagement?

  1. Hi Jay,

    You might get value from this article:


    When it comes to team-based efforts it is important to ask what role leadership plays in creating an appropriate environment for effective group problem solving and what level of complexity such a leader should operate at. Certainly, the HPtE Strategy® Framework and Implementation Path considers both.

    I wonder what level Taiichi Ohno was operating at?

    1. Hi Karl,

      I believe I know/understand the answer to the first question… Senior level management team members hold PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY for creating, sustaining, and evolving a WORK ENVIRONMENT which is most conducive both the individual and collective pursuit of the organization’s TNO.

      HOWEVER, when it comes to answering the second question pertaining to the level of complexity… I don’t understand what that means. The vast majority of large-scale business operations are COMPLEX SYSTEMS. Anyone who works in such a SYSTEM is likely going to be confronted with the need to THINK AND BEHAVE in the CONTEXT of a COMPLEX SYSTEM. Ergo, what does operating at a certain level of complexity mean? And in every HIGH-PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATION, any difference in the level of complexity being experienced by someone in a role at the top of the hierarchical structure versus someone lower down is typically very small.

      Also, just did a quick scan of the article you cited above. It appears to provide more insight into Jaques’ work and the notion/theory of a requisite organization. It also appears that his view of an organization is more REDUCTIONISTIC in nature than it is HOLISTIC in nature. Optimizing performance at the individual contributor level may not be the best path toward optimizing the performance of the SYSTEM as a whole. Why? It’s because the individual contributor’s view of the overall SYSTEM and his/her relationship to it is being minimized; particularly at the lower levels of the organizational hierarchy.

      1. Thanks Jay,

        I would add that the most conducive work environment for both individual and organisation is one that facilitates collective problem solving toward sustainable high performance of the whole. Ergo, this is the primary responsibility of leadership.

        I suggest you read Jaques in relation to the concept of time span and perhaps Kegan in relation to mind set for more insight on complexity.

        We have had many a discussion on the idea of there being a single point of focus that will impact the rest of the organisation. The individual contributors view of the overall system will be dependent on the environment created by leadership, the level of involvement in collective problem solving and level of complexity or mindset at which they are operating.

      2. Hi Karl,

        First paragraph of your reply is like music to my ears.

        Second paragraph… Will investigated further on both fronts.

        Third paragraph… YES, and that environment has to be not only multi-dimensional in nature (i.e., integrating people, processes, technologies, policies, procedures, practices, protocols) just as the SYSTEM of which it is an integral part. Without question, it has an impact on the THINKING AND BEHAVING of everyone within the organization (at all levels) on both an individual/personal and collective/group/team level. Individuals can control that level of complexity they are involved in for tasks/roles they are performing. HOWEVER, when part of team that is focused on dealing with high-complexity issues/problems/activities, they tend to be exposed to higher levels of complexity than they might otherwise. That means, having an environment that encourages and supports helping others to make progress is actually part of the recipe for a HIGH PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATION. That’s a key reason for why I refer to the LEADER-LEADER modus operandi so often.

      3. Hi Jay,

        I think we are aligned in many ways.

        I look forward to your thoughts on time span and mindset. Both are related to adult development.

        In my view adult development in the context of organisational performance is important to explore, particularly because until the mid 70’s western organisations believed adult development stopped around mid to late 20’s. Many of the western business practices and structures, were designed around this belief.

        Most Eastern practices are designed around a different set of beliefs (principles) about adult development.

        This could be why many applications of Lean and Kaizen have failed in the Western world.

        As an aside, I understand Six Sigma was originally designed as a tool to give the people closest to be problems (Gemba) relating to performance the data they needed to make decisions but it was turned into a “management” tool.

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