Article: Building high performance organizations in 2020: Interview with Elior's CEO

Performance Management

Building high performance organizations in 2020: Interview with Elior's CEO

How do we get better at getting better? What's the Kaizen for building high performance teams and organizations?
Building high performance organizations in 2020: Interview with Elior's CEO

Remember when Japanese manufacturing techniques were all the rage? You could hardly read the business press without encountering mention of “lean manufacturing,” “just-in-time inventory systems” and “total quality management.”

However, we don't hear these onomastics nowadays. The market, environment, demographics are changing at an uncertain pace and practices that work earlier cannot guarantee you a business success. So, how do I get better at getting better? What's the Kaizen for building high performance teams and organizations?

In this interview with Sanjay Kumar, MD & CEO Elior India we delve deeper to building a high performance team and how do you keep raising the bar of performance?

Q1. How do you define a high-performance organization in the current context of the "VUCA" world? What are the key dimensions of defining a high-performing organization?

We have been hearing about and experiencing “VUCA” for quite a substantial amount of time. Today's business world is different than it used to be, requiring business leaders and employees to have new sets of skills to succeed. The sheer amount of responsibility that businesses now must face can be incredibly overwhelming.

At Elior, we are designing the ways in which we work and building a high-performance organization which can be rapidly assembled to quickly respond to the market changes and deliver on the overall strategy — such teams are becoming the central cohesive source of driving successful transformations.

The three dimensions that defines our vision behind a high-performance organization:

  • Being the pioneer in the things that we do and have evidence of that. Identify what is one thing that we can do ‘first’ in the industry and pioneer it.
  • Become a high-performance organization by design and not by fluke!
  •  Collaboration is the key! You can have great talent who can turn out to be not so great performers.

Q2. “A high-performance organization by design”.  It sounds very interesting. Would you like to reflect more on this?

A: By “high-performance by design,” we mean, an organization should be seen as an enterprise that while they are trying to do new things and bring new initiatives, are they thinking through the initiative or the project. Success can be accidental but sustaining it is difficult. Hence, to create a greater and long-lasting impact, what are you trying to achieve out of your goals, projects and ideas. You need to be aware about the things you need to know about are and how to pioneer it. 

Q3. How do you keep your leaders to strive for continuous improvement in business processes?

A: Today, things are distinctly different. The success of an organization is driven by their shared values and culture — they have complete clarity and insight into the goals and projects they work on, and there is a free flow of information and feedback.  The expectation of leaders and employees is also far greater; long gone are the days of a “need to know basis”, today, these teams are held accountable to drive immediate business results and show measurable impact against the overall business strategy.  

At Elior, The starting point of building a culture of a high-performance organization was to know and acknowledge one’s leadership style. ‘It was about knowing what kind of leaders we are.’ If we don’t know what our leadership style and what kind of leaders we are as an individual it will eventually lead to clashes coming out of their intellectual ability.

Thus we embarked on a leadership development process which helped in enabling leaders to become self-aware and then look at the top three attributes of a high performance team which were: Behavior, competence and ability to take risk and fail.

Q4. What are some of the challenges in building high-performance organizations? 

A: One of the biggest challenges while getting into the journey of building a high-performance organization was making people “self-aware”.

Although it is probably one of the least discussed leadership competencies, self-awareness is possibly one of the most valuable. Self-awareness is being conscious of what you're good at while acknowledging what you still have yet to learn. This includes admitting when you don't have the answer and owning up to mistakes.

So changing the mindset and making people aware about their leadership style, making them inculcate the behaviors practiced at Elior was a challenge. 


A high-performance organization is not only about the high productivity index but about the values you practice. Self-awareness in the context of an organization or an individual is a first step towards kickstarting your journey toward a high-performance team/organization. When you are self-aware enough to openly admit missteps and concede that you still have plenty to learn, you turn mistakes are learning opportunities and give people permission to be collaborative without fear of appearing unqualified.


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Topics: Performance Management, #Outlook2020

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