How to create a high performing organization in a disruptive environment

Contributed by Sandy Spataro, INSPIRECORPS


Inspired Performance Organizations: The 4 capabilities necessary to create a high-performing organization in today’s disruptive and dynamic environment.

The Story of Change

History has taught us that the only thing we can rely on is the consistency of change. In recent years, the pace of change is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, making it harder than ever to keep up. We are in what the World Business Forum calls the “Exponential Age.”

Over the last 50 years, both work and the workforce have changed in ways we could never have imagined:

  • FROM an industrial economy (focus on company) TO a purpose economy (focus on individual),
  • FROM extrinsic motivation (driven by rewards) TO intrinsic motivation (driven by purpose, values and inspiration),
  • FROM installing uniformity (“the masses”) TO celebrating diversity (individuation),
  • FROM company systems (what drives efficiency and productivity) TO company values (what matters most and having an impact),
  • FROM leadership through hierarchy (managing) TO leadership through relationships (collaboration and inspiration)

While change is disruptive by nature, leaving uncertainty in its wake, it can also be a powerful creative force.  Change creates opportunity. When embraced, planned for, and navigated with strong leadership, change invites innovation and unleashes excellence.

Inspired people, inspired performance.

Take the story of one of our clients, a retail start-up, whose dynamic CEO understood and embraced the nature of change. A successful entrepreneur, she sold her previous company for millions and taught at Harvard before being approached to put her hat in the ring as the CEO of another new startup.

Based on her experience, she made an early commitment to set a foundation upon which she could scale high performance. Knowing intrinsically that inspired people drive success, she set out to build a high performance,inspired, culture from the ground up. She invested in her people and her culture from the very start.

Our early work with this startup was around recognizing and codifying their core values, the foundation of their culture. Then, in partnership with her and her senior team, we designed and led the team through learning pathways to strengthen key leadership and team capabilities consistent with their values that have since become the core of the company’s people strategy. Facing a competitive market, they have shown great agility as an organization, relying on these capabilities to support their resilience.

We look at organizations like ecosystems. If you remember your 7th grade biology class, ecosystems are made up interacting energy centers, all in balance relative to one another. They include inputs (your organization structure, people development efforts, performance process, and culture) and outputs (the larger environment, market conditions, competitors). Ecosystems in balance are high performing and sustainable – their excellence lasts over time.

As we highlighted earlier, while businesses have less control over their larger environment that is evolving faster than can be predicted, they do have control over their internal structure, their ecosystem. When an enterprise’s ecosystem – its systems, structure, and culture – are aligned and working together, performance excellence is accelerated. We call this type of organizational culture an Inspired Performance Ecosystem. 

Building and Sustaining an Inspired Organization

An inspired performance organization requires the following 4 organizational capabilities to be developed and cultivated. Most companies focus on and may be thriving in some of these capabilities, fewer thrive in all four. 

Here’s how we supported our startup client to focus on implementation and integration of all four:

  1. Internalized Aspiration (Talent Management and Inspired Leadership Development) – More than “employee engagement,” individuals are fired up. They love their work, are appreciated for it, and are taking on more responsibility with a drive toward organizational success. We worked with this startup to infuse their culture with internalized aspiration through: aspiration management, strengths alignment, accelerated learning, and meaningful “stretch” goals. By providing employees with deep appreciation, gratification and fulfillment, this startup offers them a pathway to performance excellence and career growth.
  1. Adaptive Agility (Leading Change and Innovation) – Agility characterizes both the organization and the individuals within it. With flexibility, adaptability and resilience, leaders own creating business growth and solutions. We worked with this startup to infuse these competencies in their strategic planning and learning processes. As a result, it has grown its ability to learn quickly from setbacks and anticipate and lead change in response to a dynamic environment, thus seizing critical opportunities. 
  1. Connected Mattering (Meaningful connection and collaborative relationships) – People feel connected to one another in ways that influence the meaningfulness and richness of the work. Collaboration is defined by respectful engagement and trustworthy, high performance teaming. We worked with this startup to embed its team culture with fluid information sharing and coordination, effective cross-functional teaming, and high quality communication to drive results and inspire a collective responsibility for success.
  1. Salient Alignment (Integration and execution) – Alignment of people, culture, and systems is the key to successful strategy realization. We worked with this startup to ensure that vision, mission, and goals are clear and compelling; strategy and priorities are tightly aligned to goals, roles and key coordination points. Also, we supported them to create thoughtful processes, systems, and tools designed to produce powerful alignment across individuals and teams. This has allowed this leadership team to stay focused on their highest strategic priorities while at the same time planning for the future.

Organizations are dynamic, energized systems. They are populated by individuals who themselves are changing and who have ideas for change within the system. The most effective leaders, like the leader of the startup we’ve described here, manage changes within and outside their organization by attending to, and actively managing, the four pillars of a high performing organization: internalized aspiration, adaptive agility, connected mattering, and salient alignment. Leaders who do this from the start of their organization, like the CEO we profiled here, experience greater agility and resilience in the organization along with accelerated results.

About the Author
Sandy Spataro is co-founder and Chief Excellence Officer of InspireCorps, an innovative talent strategy firm that inspires greatness in people and their performance. She is passionate about developing leaders and teams and does research and teaches classes on these topics as a faculty member at Northern Kentucky University.


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