Want to Build a High Performance Team?

Hire an Architect and a Chiropractor!

by Sandy Nelson on November 12, 2010

So, how do you build a high performance team or culture? Seth Godin thinks you should
“Hire an Architect” or see a chiropractor. He recommends hiring a corporate chiropractor to ‘realign and recognize what’s out of place,’ and an organizational architect to ‘intentionally build a structure and a strategy and a position’ and ‘tie together disparate resources into a business that scales.’

This may sound a bit soft, but here at Aperio International we couldn’t agree more. We know that focusing on high performance teams and the soft side of business gets hard results. Why? Because we’ve been successfully using our experience and training as an Architect and a Chiropractor to help companies achieve their growth goals for eleven years.

When we were designing and getting ready to launch Aperio International, we had many conversations with admired friends, mentors and advisors. Traveling the world, we described our vision for building a different kind of consultancy—one that would be willingly accountable for adding measurable value through accelerated growth.

Using our backgrounds as an athlete/chiropractor and architect to apply a holistic perspective and infuse into organizations systematic performance optimization through industry-defining innovations, we felt confident that we could help people achieve their full potential. Yet, looking back, I can still remember the many early conversations where our chosen advisors would patiently listen before saying, “I just don’t get it. Architecture and medicine? It just doesn’t fit with business consulting.”

Nevertheless, before we were invited into our first engagement, the logic was obvious to us. We chose to charge forward rather than allow ourselves to become discouraged.

Back then (a decade ago), as now, we saw people as the core value of all enterprises. But far too few organizations then made the connection between healthy people, teams and cultures and healthy performance. We also saw that there was, and still is (outside our Full Potential Framework), a virtual absence of a systematic methodologies for analyzing, optimizing and measuring the impact of the soft-side drivers of business revenues and enterprise value. We knew we had the skills and would progressively develop the tools to change that.

So did it work? Leveraging our strengths to design and build ‘healthy’ organizations by deconstructing complex issues/symptoms to get to essence, designing and supporting the execution of solutions that optimize the commitment and contributions of talent and that are consistent with what matters — we have consistently helped our clients build unparalleled track records of success.

For instance, we recently helped a metro newspaper that, like nearly all newspapers, was severely challenged by the global economic downturn and shift of advertising from print to online. Diving in, we found a siloed organization hamstrung by a century of addressing financial challenges by simply raising rates while ignoring structural inefficiencies and roadblocks. Rife with interdepartmental feuding and turf-building, each area of functionality was solidly focused on narrow internal concerns rather than on customers and the best interests of the enterprise. Collaborating to move the company forward was a foreign and largely unwelcome concept up until it became obvious that the only realistic alternative brought into question the sustainability of the institution.

Working closely with a new, visionary and courageous publisher, we analyzed what was out of place, helped envision a new structure, strategies and positioning, taught employees how to form and function as high performance teams, collaborate cross-functionally and innovate on a recurrent and reliable basis. Developing an overall strategy from the ground up and building the teams to execute against it, we helped tie the disparate parts of the organization into a cohesive and streamlined whole while reinventing business and manufacturing processes.

The result? One high performance culture and team has replaced a loose collection of high-friction, low-functioning departments. The “team” is executing strategy more effectively with far fewer people, has eliminated $60M from a $240M operating budget in 18 months leveraging our innovation process, returned to profitability, improved EBITDA, margins, and are now ranked in the top tier of metro newspapers in terms of performance.

As with the metro paper and its 27 subsidiaries, we leverage the unique creative, analytical, technical and entrepreneurial skills of architecture, the holistic approach to problem solving and structural alignment of chiropractic, and the results-driven focus and discipline of competitive athletics to help organizations in a wide range of industries, across multiple sectors and at dramatically varying scales achieve their full potential.

When we discuss our backgrounds with potential clients today, we seldom encounter the quizzical looks or comments about not understanding how it works. And, to add icing on the cake, Seth Godin is saying that we are exactly the type of people companies should bring in. How cool is that?!

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