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Over the years, multiple researches have been conducted in order to obtain learning and insight into the long-term success of firms and what it takes to stimulate organisations into becoming High Performance Organizations (HPOs). In 2012, André A. de Waal made a comprehensive literary review on the subject, including the study of 290 HPOs and the identification of 189 characteristics related to their long-term success. In his work, André de Waal boiled these 189 characteristics down to five main HPO factors that essentially stimulate high performance and thus contribute to HPOs (de Waal 2012):

•    Management quality
•    Openness and action-orientation
•    Long-term orientation
•    Continuous improvement
•    Workforce quality


The ability of management to build and maintain relationships of trust with people on all organisational levels acts as a stimulator to high performance, as it is paramount for employees to feel that their loyalty and hard work are valued and viewed with respect. Moreover, leaders who treat their employees fairly, display integrity, consistency, credibility, and encourage belief and trust in one another, will often inspire employees to become more engaged and motivated to do their best.

HPO leaders are often role models and do not consider themselves as super men – rather, they seem to maintain a remarkable and honest sense of vulnerability. They encourage effective and action-focused decision-making and avoid over-analysis, but also hold employees accountable and responsible for results, while they are decisive about non-performers. Finally, HPO leaders ensure that all organisational members embrace and buy into the corporate strategies of their companies.


Openness is key to stimulate employees into becoming engaged and motivated. HPOs inspire a dialogue-oriented, learning-focused and open culture, in which they encourage knowledge sharing and involvement on all levels in the organisation. HPOs are known for creating working environments where experimentation and failure are natural elements in the path to success. Calculated risk-taking is encouraged and mistakes are viewed as an opportunity for learning. Flexibility and change are natural and continuous working conditions that most, if not all, employees have been taught and learned to appreciate as a pre-condition for progress and success.


For an HPO, long-term success significantly outweighs short-term gains. The creation of internal and external stakeholder value in the long run is key and HPOs constantly strive to create perceived added value in all parts related to the critical path of the company. HPOs are generally very market-oriented and strive to understand their customers better than anyone else does. They stimulate customers by involving them in innovation processes, by building close working relationships with them, and by striving to enhance overall customer value. However, it is always with the long-term perspective in mind that HPOs set out to create win-win relationships with their customers. The long-term needs of the company range over personal self-interest - yet an effective balance between the two is acknowledged. HPOs are focused on long-term development of employees, encouraging employees to become leaders and identifying and developing talents and high performers. Finally, HPOs are health-, safety-, environment-, and job-security- focused – always dedicated in creating a safe and secure workplace for their employers.


HPOs are masters of their core competencies and are dedicated to effective lifecycle management, ensuring that gaps in the product portfolio, services, etcetera will not occur. When it comes to all initiatives in an enterprise, they are focused on stimulating the organisation to think continuous improvement, with the objective of creating sustainable competitive advantages. Moreover, HPOs are focused on the continuous simplification and improvement of processes, procedures and tasks. Everything relevant to the critical path of the company is measured and reported upon - measuring progress and monitoring goal fulfilment. The entire organisation is continuously made aware of progress or - lack thereof - on defined goals. Always striving to improve is in the DNA of an HPO – among others including continuous innovation and improvement of products, services, and processes with the objective of developing the market position of the company.


Diversity and complementarity in the workforce are viewed by HPOs as a pre-condition for organisational success. Recruitment of high performers who are skilled, flexible, proactive, engaged, and motivated, and who will complement the existing workforce - while being willing to make a difference – are highly prioritized. Continuous development of the workforce through training and involvement is also a key priority. Moreover, HPOs are dedicated to stimulate a learning environment and have an ambition to accomplish extraordinary results within their organization. Finally, HPOs see the value of creating close collaborative relationships with customers and suppliers, with the objective of creating learning-loops to the benefit of all parties.

In conclusion, de Waal established that organisations that paid increased attention to the HPO factors, while scoring high on these, consistently achieved better results compared to their peers, within every industry, sector, and country in the world (de Waal, 2012).

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