What makes an Olympic champion so different from any other athlete? Is it genetics? Hard work? Great coaching? Arguably, you can cite all the above. But there is also the element of peak performance where champions are able to hone their mindset and processes to achieve their full potential – a key differentiator in competition.
The concept of peak performance isn’t reserved solely for athletes though. It’s also a status coveted by companies as they work to stand out in an increasingly competitive environment. Technology is getting cheaper, driving down business entry barriers. And, with the advancement of technology, entire industries are changing so rapidly that products and services can quickly become obsolete.
Business leaders know that achieving and maintaining peak performance within their organizations in today’s environment isn't just a nice-to-have – it’s a necessity. Yet, optimal performance is not inherent in some businesses and absent in others. Instead, peak performance requires careful planning, diligence and a mindset of continuous improvement.
What Is Peak Business Performance?
In business, peak performance is when an organization is able to reach its full potential, resulting in a more efficient, productive, effective, and profitable company. Peak performance isn’t a natural state. Rather, it is a learned set of skills and behaviors that allow organizations to work at maximum capacity. They are able to successfully execute by focusing their efforts, aligning their skills, attitudes, and knowledge strategically, managing their energies, measuring their results and altering their course as necessary. The result is peak performance.
- Peak performance in a business is not achieved simply by willing it to happen.
- Instead, reaching an organization’s full potential requires careful planning, precise action items and the ability to delegate well.
- It should also be thought of as a process of continuous improvement, requiring diligent monitoring and iteration to reach – and maintain – peak performance.
Peak Business Performance Explained
Many people and organizations can achieve high performance without extensive financial planning and analysis (FP&A). However, attaining peak performance is a level-up that requires quite a bit more effort and groundwork. To get the best from your people and the business as a whole, there is a six-step process.
Create a plan
As the saying goes, a goal without a plan is simply a wish. While many wish for their business to achieve peak performance, it’s those who prepare who have the best chance of success. When a plan is well-documented and substantiated, everyone on the team can work together towards the shared goal of maximizing the organization’s potential.
In plotting a course towards peak performance, it is first important to measure your business’s current health. Conduct a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis to gauge where your company stands within your industry and market.
The SWOT analysis should show where you need to improve and how you need to grow. From there, set goals that will help move the organization towards peak business performance. While perhaps the ultimate goal is to achieve peak performance as a team, that is not what goes into the plan. Instead, the plan should consist of targets in areas of the business that are actionable and will move the needle towards peak performance. When goal-setting, remember the following:
- Keep goals SMART. Desired outcomes should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound.
- Set goals that are clearly defined and will be easily understood by the team.
- Ensure goals are well-aligned to the company’s overall strategy, mission and values.
- Prioritize instead of trying to tackle everything all at once. This process is about continuous, incremental improvement.
- Check the company’s financial plan to determine if an idea is fiscally suitable.
As an example, if the company’s sales numbers are underperforming compared to the rest of the market, the goal will not be simply to “Improve sales.” Instead, it might be, “To increase new accounts by 15% by the end of the year.”
Once goals are set and prioritized, it is time to write them down into a one-page strategic plan. Include both how and why these goals will move the organization towards peak performance. Next, it’s time to get more granular.
Outline specific to-dos from the plan
Once goals have been outlined, the next step is delving into the objectives required of each goal included in the plan. While the terms goals and objectives tend to be used interchangeably, there is an important difference in definition. A goal is an achievable outcome that is typically broad and long-term. An objective is shorter term and defines measurable actions to achieve the goal.
Using our previous example, the goal in this instance would be to increase new accounts by 15% by the end of the year. Objectives to achieve this goal could consist of increasing the number of sales calls expected from the sales team, the introduction of a new email campaign and an increase in social media presence.
Each objective should be broken down into detail that includes a timeline, needed resources and action plans that include specific tasks for specific people. This also marks the stage where the financial plan should be consulted – and subsequently updated – to determine the potential impact of these goals and associated objectives, as well as determine appropriate resource allocation.
Delegate before you need to
Peak business performance won’t be achieved by one person rolling up their sleeves and executing the needed tasks. Work needs to be delegated proactively to promote organization-wide success. A study by Harvard Business Review determined that delegating can actually increase the income and overall efficiency of organizations. Further research by Gallup found that CEOs who excelled at delegating generated 33 percent higher revenue. Not only does delegating empower others in the organization, it helps optimize the performance of the group.
Successful delegation of tasks involves seven steps:
- Determine what to delegate: It is important to ask whether this is a task that someone else can do or if it is critical that you do it yourself.
- Assign the right people: Match talent to the appropriate task by analyzing strengths, weaknesses, skill sets and opportunities for growth. When employees are well-matched to a project, they are more motivated and engaged. A more motivated and engaged workforce benefits the business as a whole, helping the progression towards peak performance.
- Clearly define the project tasks and desired outcome: Employees should be given the proper context for a project, including timeline, parameters for success and an explanation of how it ties to the organization’s goals.
- Ensure that employees have the required resources: Whether it be tools, training or information, make sure your employee is equipped to complete the task at hand.
- Check in on progress: No need to be a micromanager. Trying to control every aspect of the process and telling employees what you would do won’t allow for the development of skills and autonomy. However, it is worthwhile to check in and ensure that the employee has the tools and knowledge needed to be successful.
- Give helpful feedback: You shouldn’t be afraid to give feedback – just as you shouldn’t shy away from being the recipient of constructive criticism.
- Show appreciation: Whether it be through recognition or financial incentives, appreciation for the completion of a project can greatly increase employee morale and confidence.
Remember, don’t put delegation off until the tasks overwhelm you – do it early and do it often.
Focus on what you’re good at
Bruce Lee once said, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” The same holds true for achieving peak performance in your business.
Where businesses tend to go wrong is trying to go in too many different directions, resulting in a bloated and ineffective portfolio. Instead, focus – and spend – in the areas that feed your success.
Identify your key capabilities. These are a select few strengths, usually around two to five, that have high-margins, align with overall company strategy and provide a competitive advantage.
Once you have an idea of your chosen capabilities, you can concentrate your resources on these areas instead of diluting them across low-margin or irrelevant parts of the business. With focus on what you are good at, you can be better equipped to reach peak performance. Focus on less, then obsess.
Keep a constant watch on your KPIs
KPIs are integral to the peak performance process. Businesses first need to be sure that they choose the right KPIs and then that they monitor them constantly to gauge progress.
Choosing the right KPIs can be deceptively difficult. It’s easy to select KPIs that are simple to track or “vanity” ones that make the initiative look good – but aren’t necessarily reflective of the process or easily understood by the rest of the business. Instead, when choosing, ensure that KPIs are:
- Aligned with goals
- Easily understood by the team
The issue when debating KPIs might very easily be too many options. Ensure that only the most salient and relevant are selected. It helps to choose both leading and lagging indicators to give a holistic view of the effort. For instance, in the example of increasing new accounts, number of leads could be a leading indicator and customer acquisition rates could serve as a lagging.
Being discerning in KPI selection will be of benefit when it comes to the second part of the equation: monitoring. You shouldn’t just “set and forget KPIs”. Instead, monitoring them consistently allows for strategic tweaks to be made as needed to achieve goals and, eventually, peak performance.
Iterate and improve continuously
As previously mentioned, the work towards peak performance is not a singular event. Rather, it must be iterated and improved upon continuously. One action might not yield the results expected or desired. Or, external factors, like a competitor’s action, may require changes in approach. The path towards peak performance is dynamic, meaning that your organization must be equally agile and hungry for improvement.
When an organization’s leaders put in the needed effort, diligence and strategic thinking, they can bring the resources they have to their full potential. The last piece in the proverbial puzzle is ensuring alignment to bring everything together. Without it, companies risk their hard work coming to naught as disparate pieces fail to sync and participants fail to see the full picture.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions provide the alignment and transparency required for peak performance. A unified set of business applications ensures real-time access to relevant data, allowing leaders to make better-informed plans and decisions. Role-based, customizable graphical dashboards allow both employees and leaders to track progress against designated KPIs and switch tactics quickly if a plan isn’t delivering the desired results. With NetSuite, a team can efficiently align their efforts and stay in sync as it works towards peak performance – together.
Peak Business Performance FAQs
What defines business performance?
Business performance broadly refers to the ability of a company to implement the necessary strategy and utilize their resources to achieve their selected goals. That capability can be defined by both financial and non-financial factors. Financial factors include line items from financial statements like number of sales, net profit margin, liquidity ratios and operating cash flow. On the other hand, non-financial indicators that can define business performance include customer and employee satisfaction.
How do businesses achieve peak performance?
Businesses achieve peak performance by using resources on hand – whether that be people, money, technology, etc. – as efficiently and profitably as possible. To do so, leaders need to create a clear, focused plan with actionable to-dos, delegate effectively and keep track of progress. When businesses treat the process as a cycle of continuous improvement – not a “one-and-done” scenario – that is when they will achieve peak performance.