Innovation : Maximising Performance, Unleashing Potential

Debbie Grobler is Principle Consultant of MAC Consulting. She has extensive experience in designing and facilitating a variety of human resource related strategies, processes and interventions, both within organisations and as a consultant in her own business. In particular, Debbie has been instrumental in designing and implementing a Leadership Development Process for a large mining group. Her other area of speciality is team processes and facilitation.

Contact Debbie at You can find more articles and resources on

An Idiot's guide

Having spent the last ten years in consulting on Human Resource Development, both in and out of organisations, I have continuously had a desperate need to simplify and demystify the human element in organizations and find a simple way of understanding how it all hangs together. Unfortunately for me ( as I could be making a tremendous amount of money ) or fortunately for me ( as that would put a damper on my passionate search for answers ), I still have no simple answer, but at least I have come to terms with a concept that each individual finds his/her own winning combination within a complex environment of interacting and influencing factors.

I have attempted to capture this concept in a model of concentric, but overlapping spheres of influence and impact. This model is an eclectic combination of popular theory, borrowed terminology, shared knowledge and personal innovation and interpretation of what works for me. Thanks to all those who contributed both knowingly and unknowingly.

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The purpose of this article is to explain this model and concept as a framework for understanding individual, team and organisational performance. This model will form the framework for a series of articles that will explore each of these factors further with as many as possible practical tips and lessons gleaned from trying many approaches in real life.

Personal Performance and Competence

Maximising performance and competence is high on the agenda of any organisation. The rapid rate of global change and increasing complexity necessitates that learning must be greater than the rate of change (L>C) in order to create and maximise business opportunities. So how do we encourage each and every individual to maximise their own potential and build their competence ? It all starts with self, building outwards in expanding spheres to eventually understanding the impact of the external environment.

The six areas of impact that need managing are :-

Areas of impact

Easy Terms

Area of Control, Influence or concern

1. Management of Self

To perform


2. Management of the Job

To perform the skills


3. Management of Others

To interact with others


4. Management of the Internal Environment

To perform at his/her best


5. Management of the Organisation

To perform at his/her best


6. Management of the External Environment

of external factors affecting performance


1. Management of Self

This includes all factors affecting a person’s willingness to perform

  • Self-awareness – this includes being aware of where you are vs where you want to be (personal vision, goals and values) and is the current work situation helping or hindering you to get there and aligning with your values. This includes awareness of your personality and work preferences and how they influence your satisfaction and stress levels.
  • Self-belief – this includes having the belief that you can make a difference and you can do the job without failing. Many people don’t start something due to fear of failure and criticism.
  • Self-management – this includes how I motivate myself, manage my time, manage my emotions and attitude, manage change and stress and make decisions to reach desired outcomes or face the necessary consequences

This must be addressed first as a person’s self-concept and confidence affects how he/she views others and the job

2. Management of the Job

This includes all factors affecting a person’s technical ability to perform at the required level within a job or role

  • Basic business Skills – this includes all skills required to work in the world of business and the specific work environment at entry level i.e. use of office equipment, technology, basic business understanding, language, business writing and etiquette, etc
  • Business Knowledge – this includes knowledge of the business and industry and where the specific role fits into the bigger picture
  • Technical Skills – this includes all technical skills that a person needs in a specific role and usually functionally specific i.e. Financial, marketing, engineering, human resources, production, etc

This is vitally important for effective functioning in a job, however it can in most cases be taught fairly easily – more so than personal belief and attitude

3. Management of Others

This includes all aspects of interacting with others to get to a desired result

  • Interpersonal Skills – this includes understanding how to communicate and interact with others, taking into account people’s diverse styles, needs, skills, backgrounds and beliefs. It includes relationship building skills
  • Team Skills – this includes how to work effectively in a team
  • Management Skills – this includes the standard faire of planning, leading organising, controlling, co-ordinating and delegating

If people battle to get on with and communicate their needs and expectations to others and manage conflict effectively, they will not be successful, as the world of work is a complex web of people demanding or offering various real and perceived products and services and rarely being totally satisfied with what they get.

4. Management of the Internal Environment

This includes all aspects affecting the work unit climate – making it conducive to effective and efficient performance. These can be summarised into

  • Management Style & Practices
  • Structures, Roles & Responsibilities
  • Policies, Procedures & Processes
  • Work Unit climate & culture

These factors are usually under the influence and/or control of managers in the business. You can have a willing and able person in the company that cannot perform effectively due to not being allowed by management to use his initiative or implement an effective process that can improve the business. These inhibiting factors need to be identified and continuous improvement practiced to remove barriers to individual or team performance.

5. Management of the Organisation

This includes all aspects of leadership of an organisation. Leaders can inspire superior performance through :

  • communicating a shared vision & values
  • modeling the way
  • empowering and involving people
  • encouraging initiative and innovation
  • coaching and developing others

For leaders to be able to do this effectively, they must have mastered the art of managing self, the job, others and the internal environment. Leading takes a tremendous amount of personal awareness, courage and tenacity. These come with time and experience and a committed plan to develop the leadership competencies needed to operate in the new millennium.

6. Management of the External Environment

This includes all external factors impacting on the business or individual. They can be summarised into :

  • Social issues e.g. violence & crime, housing, AIDS, etc
  • Legal issues e.g. new laws, pending cases, etc
  • Economic e.g. the rand value, tax rate, the market & competitors, etc
  • Political e.g. instability, government contracts changing hands , etc

These may impact the business on a local, industry or global level.

Many of these factors are out of direct control or influence of the company, but by being aware of them, they can adapt to changing circumstances or trends proactively.

The critical components that need to be in place throughout all the spheres are :

  • Communication & Feedback
  • Involvement & Empowerment

Process Management

There is no one approach that is guaranteed to work to attract, develop, manage and retain individuals and teams for maximum performance with minimum risk. However, certain systems and processes can be put in place to facilitate a smoother and more predictable ride. These are in summary :

  • HR Strategy
  • Recruitment & Selection
  • Performance Management
  • Training & Development
  • Compensation
  • Conditions of Employment
  • Employee Relations
  • Dispute Resolution

These will be discussed in more detail in future articles. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and experiences with you.

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