Book report: Primed to Perform – The Yin and Yang of Performance

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Book by Neel Doshi & Lindsay McGregor
Reading notes by Yan Tougas

The Yin and Yang of Performance

Strategy: A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.  Success depends of tactical performance.

Culture: Determines how well your team can diverge from the plan when VUCA requires it.  Success depends on adaptive performance.

The two are complementary.  Yin and Yang.

There are high-performing individuals and then there are high-performing organizations.  An organization filled with high-performing individuals is not necessarily high-performing.  The individuals must be able to work together in a specific way.  A high-performing culture emerges from a system that maximizes adaptive performance through total motivation (because VUCA is always present).  This emergence requires two conditions:

  1. The individual members of the organization must be adaptive, encouraging novelty and allowing experiments and fluctuations.  Also known as play (individuals can “play” different roles depending on the circumstances).
  2. Emergent organizations must encourage citizenship, defined as helping each other out.

When these two conditions are not met, you end up with either a rigid organization that does not adapt to changing customer needs, or one where well-meaning individuals are unable to shape their immediate surroundings.  The traditional, hierarchical views of leadership are less useful in our complex modern world.

You should never use employee satisfaction survey as the measure of your culture’s strength.  What people say and what they do are different things.  Satisfaction does not always lead to adaptive performance.  In fact, being satisfied enough can create inertia, the most harmful of motives.

The species that survives is the one best able to adapt and adjust to the changing environment.  Humans have a natural instinct to adapt.  While most species adapt over generations, humans can adapt many times within a lifetime.  Humans exist because of VUCA.​

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