High-Performance Recipe

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm


I saw your article on "Defining leadership: Today’s business leaders need many skills" in the March 3, 2006, issue of Small Business Times. I appreciated what you had to say and wonder if you could elaborate on the Three P’s and Three C’s. Why are these so important? Thanks.


Thanks for the feedback. I’m happy to expand my comments. As you will recall, in the article that you referenced, I highlighted the importance of leaders adopting an holistic perspective as they confront the complexity of the Information Age.

Specifically, I suggested that leaders must focus on internal integration (i.e., linking and aligning individual and collective efforts) in order to provide for external adaptation (i.e., proactive positioning in the marketplace).

When they do so, leaders adopt a "systems perspective." As researchers such as Peter Senge and others have indicated, "systems thinking" is a fundamental skill necessary for individual and organizational adaptation.

According to Senge, systems thinking is, "A discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of changes rather than ‘static snapshots.’ It is a discipline for seeing the ‘structures that underlie complex situations, and for discerning high from low leverage change.’"

One of the key elements of systems thinking is the concept of feedback, or what Senge calls the "reciprocal flow of influence." For example, in a situation where there is feedback, if A influences B, and B influences C, then C or something that is influenced by C will ultimately influence A. So, by adopting a systems perspective, leaders begin to see the interdependency of things, the interrelatedness of processes and sub-processes, and how smaller parts add up to collective wholes.

Now, let me turn my attention back to the Three Ps (Purpose, Partnership and Process). By focusing on these elements, leaders will help their organizations integrate and align key internal resources. In order to do so, leaders must link and align efforts along the strata that comprise the organization: organization-wide efforts, work area efforts, and individual efforts. Let’s explore each of the Three Ps and these strata in more detail.


Leaders help define the vision and mission of the organization. This is certainly true of top managers who occupy executive roles. To affect organizational members at-large, leaders craft messages and sell them effectively. In doing so, they help organizational members target their efforts at things that matter – activities that drive the organization’s bottom line.

At the work area level, by attending to purpose, leaders help translate the "big picture" into actionable "chunks" that teams and departments can pursue. Important activities along these lines have to do with establishing charters for teams and work groups and setting goals and expectations. One other powerful tool is a team or work area business plan.

At the individual level, when leaders focus on purpose, they help employees see how what they are doing at a tactical level relates to what the work area strives to accomplish. For example, setting clear performance standards, clarifying roles and responsibilities, identifying the operating authority that attaches, providing evaluative criteria, etc. are all activities that leaders can pursue to help individuals connect with the larger whole.


Leaders clarify the values and beliefs to which the organization adheres. To make these values come to life, they specify the core competencies that underlie successful performance. The core competencies (i.e., knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors) are the "how" of organizational performance. Tending to these factors drives the creation of a unique, distinctive corporate culture.

At the work area level, when leaders focus on partnership, they set behavioral expectations for how work is to be carried out in concert with others. Obviously, an emergent model of leadership is the team-based approach. That is what I am talking about here. Emphasizing partnership means using participative decision-making, managing conflict constructively, and facilitating collaborative methods.

At the individual level, when leaders focus on partnership they help organizational members develop their interpersonal and human relations skills to the fullest.

As I’ve written in previous articles, technical or subject matter skills get you in the organizational "elevator car." How fast and far that car moves, though, is largely a function of interpersonal acumen. For teams to be successful, team members must be sound communicators, with communication being the "glue" that binds the team together.


When leaders are process-oriented, they use this stance to design work and the methods used to carry it out with efficiency and effectiveness as focal points.

At the organizational level, this means making sure connections are made across functions and work areas. Clarity and understanding of what is to be done and how it is to be done are critical.

At the team or work area level, when leaders focus on process, they emphasize the use of procedures that produce reliable and dependable results. Measurement is emphasized within associated project and performance management frameworks. Importantly, the unit of measurement that is employed is matched with the unit of analysis that is desired (i.e., team-based metrics are used to measure the performance of the team, and so on.).

At the individual level, by emphasizing process, leaders help organizational members to adopt the mindset of "owners" rather than "renters." Input from employees is encouraged, sought and acted upon. In this way, employees become engaged and involved process participants rather than passive bystanders.

Clearly, you can see that by vigorously attending to the Three Ps, leaders will be shaping how organizational members approach the work that they do. In a Three P-oriented work environment, employees are better able to see how what they are doing relates to the product or service that is ultimately offered to end users (i.e., the customers-the most important asset the organization possesses). They will understand it. They will identify with it. They will drive it. Productivity will be enhanced. Motivation and job satisfaction will grow.

In short, a culture of high performance will be unleashed.

In my next column, I’ll continue by turning my attention to the Three Cs – Customers, Competition and Change.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display