Core elements of a High Performance Worksystem

Combining the four components outlined above is necessary to create a high performance work system within an organization.

High Performance Work Systems Defined

The original definition of HPWS as provided by Nadler et al (1992)

The High Performance Work System is an organizational architecture that brings together work, people, technology and information in a manner that optimizes the congruence of fit among them in order to produce high performance in terms of the effective response to customer requirements and other environmental demands and opportunities (Nadler, Gerstein, & Shaw, 1992, p. 118)

HPWS is a name given to a set of management practices that attempt to create an
environment within an organization where the employee has greater involvement and
responsibility. More specifically, HPWS has been defined by Bohlander et al (2004) as “a
specific combination of HR practices, work structures, and processes that maximizes employee knowledge, skill, commitment and flexibility” (Bohlander & Snell, 2004, p. 690).

The overall aim of performance management in the organization, is to use High Performance Working Systems (HPWS) based on superior Informative Technology as an organizational system that it can fully allocate all kinds of resources, effectively meet market and customer needs and achieve high performance.
(Nadler &Gerstein, 1992)

The Value of High-Performance Work Systems

Employees who are highly involved in conceiving, designing, and implementing workplace processes are more engaged and perform better. For example, a study analyzing 132 U.S. manufacturing firms found that companies using HPWSs had significantly higher labor productivity than their competitors. The key finding was that when employees have the power to make decisions related to their performance, can access information about company costs and revenues, and have the necessary knowledge, training, and development to do their jobs—and are rewarded for their efforts—they are more productive.Konrad, A. M. (2006, March/April)

Designing High Performance Work Systems

Although high performance work systems have been defined above in simple terms, the
actual design and implementation of an HPWS is not quite as simple. The design of an HPWS is not something that can be easily modeled and recreated within different organizations; each organization will come out of the design process with a unique system that works for that organization. Even though each HPWS system will be different for different organizations, Nadler et al (1997) outlined ten key principles (shown in Table 1 below) that should be considered when designing a high performance work These principles are basic guidelines to consider, not a strict roadmap for designing a high performance work system.

Ten Principles for Design of HPWS (Nadler, & Tushman, 1997, pp. 147 – 153)

1. Start the design with an outward focus on customer requirements and then work
backward to develop appropriate organizational forms and work processes.
2. Design work around self-managed teams responsible for producing complete
products or processes.
3. Work must be guided by clear direction, explicit goals, and a full understanding of
output requirements and measures of performance.
4. Variances should be detected and controlled at the source.
5. Design the social and technical systems to be closely linked.
6. Ensure continuous flow of information to all areas of the system.
7. Enriched and shared jobs increase the motivation of individuals and enhance
flexibility in assigning work and solving problems.
8. Human resource practices must complement and strengthen the empowerment of
teams and individuals.
9. The management structure, culture, and processes all must embrace and support the
HPWS design.
10. The organization and its work units must have the capacity to reconfigure
themselves to meet changing competitive conditions.

The ten principles outlined in are used as a starting point for the design of a high
performance system, but should not be the only things that are considered. Organizations must take a thorough look at their organizational architecture and determine how best to fit the social and technical aspects of the organization into a system that will work and succeed.
While designing an HPWS, an organization should also consider future proofing the
HPWS design so that if a re-design is needed, the system can be quickly transformed to meet the changing environment. To do this, the organization must implement a system that is flexible and modular so that change can easily occur.

High Performance Work System Implementation

The key to a successful implementation of a high performance work system is for an
organization to communicate the goals, progress and outcome of the HPWS throughout the organization. Communication is critical to the success of an HPWS implementation, according to a survey conducted by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and described in Bohlander et al (2004).

ASTD Survey Results – Critical factors for successful HPWS implementation
(Bohlander & Snell, 2004, p. 703)

 Make a compelling case for change linked to company’s business strategy
 Make certain that change is owned by senior and line managers
 Allocate sufficient resources and support for the change effort
 Ensure early and board communication
 Make certain teams are implemented in a systemic context
 Establish methods for measuring the results of change
 Make certain there is continuity of leadership and champions.

Knowing that communication is a key factor in the successful implementation of an
HPWS, care must be taken to ensure that all stakeholders in an organization are aware of
changes that will occur before, during and after an implementation of the system. Bohlander et al.

Implementation Process for an HPWS (Bohlander & Snell, 2004, pp. 704-710)

1. Build a Business Case for Change – Organizations must find a way to convince
employees that the changes are necessary and beneficial.
2. Establish a Communications Plan – Organizations must create two-way
communications channels so that management and employees are able to share
3. Involve the Employees – Organizations must ensure that employees understand
the changes and see them as a ‘win-win’ for both the organization and the
employees. In addition, organizations must get buy-in and commitment from the
employees to ensure a successful implementation.
4. Transition to the HPWS – After the design is complete and the benefits have been
clearly communicated to the entire organization, the implementation of the HPWS
5. Continuous Evaluation – After implementation, an organization must continually
evaluate the system. Evaluation should consist of determining whether the system
was implemented as designed, is running as designed and is meeting the goals that
the system was designed for.

As the first three steps indicate, the process outlined in Table 3 attempts to build the
implementation process around communication. The fourth step of transitioning to the use of the system should be a straightforward process if the HPWS is designed correctly and the first three steps of the process are performed. The final step in the process consists of constantly evaluating the HPWS to ensure that the performance meets the needs of the organization.

Value of a High Performance Work System

Organizations are always looking for a way to get gain competitive advantage in their
markets and an HPWS is one way to achieve this advantage. If an organization can design, implement and change their architecture quickly to react to internal and external environments, they will create a successful business environment, which is difficult to copy. In addition, an HPWS can provide an organization a way to create “higher productivity, lower costs, better responsiveness to customers, greater flexibility and higher profitability” (Bohlander & Snell, 2004, p. 712). If an organization can successfully create an environment with the benefits listed above, they will have created competitive advantage in their market and should have the upper hand over their competitors.

More: High Performance Work System

Designing a High Performance Personal Work System

Will be continued 🙂