Performance culture-the need in Sri Lanka
With the recent cost increase of 43% in electricity and inflation
recoding a dizzy height of 28.2% in June organizations must be lean
today’s business world. The strategic reason being, when an organization
is lean it can drive productivity and make quicker changes to the
changing volatile market place that will result in a stronger
contribution to the bottom line.
This will drive up shareholder value significantly too. Citi Bank is
a classic example that practiced this doctrine in 2002 when the global
sales revenue dropped by six percent to 94.7 billion dollars but the
profit growth was a staggering 16.7 percent and brand equity growing by
eight percent to 19.9 billion dollars (Source: Inter Brand survey 2002)
However, during the process of an organization becoming lean it does
not mean that one must practice mean tactics. Specially in a country
like Sri Lanka where emotional attachment is a stronger reason to work
than the masculine reasons like achievement, challenge and victory that
exists in the west.
When we analyze successful organizations like Dialog or Unilever in
Sri Lanka we see that for a ‘lean’ organization to exist there has to be
lean processes, a proven technique even when applied by government.
A typical ‘lean process’ can help create a performance based culture
within an organization due to the clear responsibilities and
accountability that one carries in a modern organization.
The best case in point is Royal Mail in the U.K where the processes
are so sharply formulated that a letter mailed from Scotland that needs
to be delivered in London within 3 days has a specific coloured letter
box which drives a chain of people in collecting, sorting and the
delivery of that letter in the stipulated time.
Hence we see that a ‘Lean process formulated to consumer
requirements’ delivers value to the consumer.
This constitutes a system that requires that all processes are
reconsidered and carefully integrated to obviateity of customer service.
If we take Federal Express who is a leader in the courier business has
247 planes that land from around the world in Mississippi airport
between midnight and 3 am and then with a semi automated sorting out
process a parcel is delivered the next day to a door-step of an office.
For governments this can mean a sea change in attitude with the
citizens being regarded as the customer of government, however when
applied it really works.
In Sri Lanka, we see the Passport office coming up to this standard
based on the need for same day passport or a passport within 3 days.
However, it is good leadership together with a strong rewards strategy
that a performance culture can be developed and sustained.
The ongoing success of corporations such as Toyota, the corporation
that introduced and developed ‘Lean Manufacturing’ has been based on
defining processes on the basis of their ability to deliver customer
value and excising those that do not.
As a by product, of sometimes ruthlessly, pruning those processes
will deliver customer value to companies and be able to reduce costs
more substantially than through cost cutting exercises that many
If we take a leading hotel like Cinnamon Grand in Sri Lanka, customer
satisfaction at every stage of every transaction is drilled with a
focused training programme called Cinnamon Magic. This has enhanced
employee satisfaction and commitment too, whist making a customer
In short, “lean Processes” have delivered a business culture which
results in the ultimate win/win situation. Cinnamon was voted in as the
best City hotel at this years Presidential awards.
Organizational culture has frequently been simplified and expressed
as “the way we do things here”. It is more than that. It is perhaps
above all else, an expression of the values that drive all activities
within an organization and the norms or rules that ensure that those
values are implemented in practiced.
At a retail store like Wal-Mart, values of the company receive more
than lip service from the senior management and employees alike. During
the times of their founder CEO was alive; he was at the shop floors
talking to the customers to understand how better this No 1 retail store
in the world can delight a customer. Let me site an example.
He found out that most housewives equate ‘Fresh Fish’ when having to
purchase a whole fish taken out of an Ice bath and not when it is packed
in trays. So today, Wal-Mart has fish in baths of ice, in line with
customer perceptions of what fresh means. Hence we see culture driving
behaviour and it lies at the heart of performance.
Re addressing processes provides a unique opportunity to emphasize
the values and norms that lie behind them to ensure that they are shared
across the organization in a company or a department in a government.
The good news is that the work becomes enriched through customer centric
processes leading to the performance culture becoming deep -rooted.
W. Edward Demming said “What cannot be measured cannot be managed”.
In order to ensure that lean processes deliver as expected. Measurement
is required. Strategic objectives need to be broken down to tactical
measures of performance that all involved must understand, accept and
In Sri Lanka Pizza Hut is a typical organization that monitors
performance. If a Pizza is not delivered to a table within 15 minute
after placing the order, the Pizza is free to the customer.
However, we must note that when targets are imposed people find ways
of satisfying them on ‘paper’ that often have an adverse effect on
performance. If people are to take responsibility for performance at
every level they need an opportunity, together with management to set
their own targets based on the strategic demands of the organization.
Research has revealed time and time again that when people are given
the opportunity of setting their own objectives the role of management
becomes more a task of injecting ‘reality’ than having to encourage them
to achieve more. Involvement increases commitment, efficiency and
morale. Experiences in both companies and government departments have
shown that everyone helps solve problems.
(To be continued)