9 Steps to establishing a Performance Driven Organisational Culture.

9 Steps to establishing a Performance Driven Organisational Culture.

 “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.”

– Brian Chesky, Co-Founder, CEO, Airbnb

The culture of an organisation is one of those intangibles that define how an organisation carries itself as a collective. Culture is sometimes perceived to be the soft and fluffy stuff that is defined by individuals that studied psychology and human behaviour sitting in the HR department. My definition of a performance culture is, how organisations create systems and ways to deliver superior value to their clients which have become the norm internally. Having worked and consulted at various JSE listed top 40 companies, I can testify that these so-called soft and fluffy factors are a big determining factor of whether an organisation thrives or dies. Culture impacts on the type of talent you attract, whether or not you retain top talent, how you perform and your probability to stay relevant in the future.

In this post, I am going to share 9 steps to establishing a performance-driven organisational culture based on my experience in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur.

Candid Self-evaluation

Before jumping into solution design mode, it is critical for an organisation to understand where they are in terms of performance culture. This process should not be limited to climate surveys (which are useful), but include face to face communication with managers, staff and execs in order to get the different perceptions around the state of performance culture. Talking to people will assist organisations to obtain different nuances, which are critical to designing a performance model which encourages high performance. Find out the views and perceptions about whether the way performance is currently being measured is perceived to be fair or not. Investigate what performance incentives/rewards are currently being used, understand the differences between official and unofficial incentives. Ask people how they want to be rewarded for non-cash incentives.

 Define your performance vision

Once you have fully understood the status quo, use the information you have gathered to define a shared vision of a performance culture. This will involve paying attention to what people believe to be a performance-driven culture and using that feedback to define a shared performance vision. Getting buy-in will be easier because you would have involved all stakeholders during the candid self-evaluation step. In the vision, it is critical to include how people will be incentivised/ rewarded for a positive performance culture.

 Define the policy around how you will manage the performance process

Before you jump into talking about systems and software; you need to define a policy which will govern the performance culture. This is where the rubber hits the road because you need to dive deeper into the rules and governance required to meet the performance vision. When drafting the policy focus on defining the boundary lines of the new performance culture, which should make it clear who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed at each stage.

 Performance management/leadership Process

Define your performance management/leadership process this should focus on workflows around information and should not be based on a software system. The key processes should focus on how performance is assessed, improved and rewarded. A clever way to make the processes enjoyable is to include an aspect of gamification. Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas to encourage participation and engagement.

 Test drive

Test the new process, by running a proof of concept (POC) which should have a clear success criterion defined upfront. This test should be done iteratively until the desired outcome is reached.


Ensure that communication is flowing throughout the process. It’s better to over-communicate rather than under communicate.


Finally, find a suitable software to automate the process, so that it is easily manageable. The key thing here is to find a software which fits 80% of your process and customise for the remaining 20%. Also, make sure business drives technology and not the other way around. The software tool should just be an enabler.

Kick of Change Project

Kick of a change project to implement the new performance culture, assign a senior exec as Sponsor and create change agents. Clearly define the success criteria for the change project so that you can measure post-implementation. Run the project in an Agile manner and make tweaks based on feedback.


Lastly, measure the success of the change project based on the success criteria established when the project was initially kicked off.

Ishmael Dube (Founder of iStratgo)

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