In Michael Beer's book High Commitment, High Performance (HCHP), the Harvard Business School professor addresses how companies can create sustained levels of exemplary performance by adhering to the HCHP principles. Beer defines HCHP as "a business philosophy that embraces the multiple stakeholder perspective and encourages leaders to acknowledge the needs of all stakeholders who are involved in the organization."
Michael Beer's credentials as a professor and consultant mean that he has both the knowledge and experience necessary to write a book of this nature. Building an HCHP organization includes maintaining a high level of commitment from employees, customers, investors, and the community and Beer posits that when leaders achieve this, their organizations benefit from a high level of performance. Oftentimes this high level of performance can persevere over long periods of time and even through the duration of the organization's existence.
Beer also does an adequate job of explaining why some organizations begin as HCHP organizations while others are transformed into HCHP organizations, and almost all of it has to do with whether or not the leaders espouse the values and strategies that align with the HCHP model.
The book begins by examining the three pillars that an organization must embrace in order to become an HCHP organization. These three pillars are "performance alignment, psychological alignment, and having a capacity for learning and change." To someone in the field of training and development this might be recognized as having leaders who create a "thinking, feeling, and teaching" environment.
One important point that Beer stresses is that adherence to these pillars must permeate all levels of the organization in order to be effective. Leaders can use the performance alignment pillar to develop appropriate processes and goals and effectively align these skills with the overall strategy of the organization. They can use the psychological alignment pillar to create a sense of purpose within their organization that all employees can affiliate with and believe in.
And lastly, leaders should enable the capacity for learning and change, allowing stakeholders the opportunity to be able to provide feedback as well as quickly adapt to a changing environment. In addition to the three pillars, another recurring theme throughout the book is that leaders need to focus on principled leadership, and this begins by infusing strong morals and values into the organization's overall strategy.
While the material in the book was both interesting and helpful, Beer came off as being professorial at times. I thought that the book read more like a textbook that belonged in a graduate-level business strategy course as opposed to a practical "how to" training and development book. HCHP seemed to be geared toward an audience of executives and those who have already attained a leadership role within their organization.
And while Beer strongly advocates the beneficial concept of creating an environment where employees at all levels can be open and honest with each other, it can be hard to act on these ideas if you are a low-level employee or a member of middle management. Beer also examined a relatively small sample of HCHP companies that have succeeded in business over the years. Many of them are companies or brands whose name the reader would instantly recognize.
But what about the long-standing companies that have managed to create enduring success without embracing the HCHP philosophy? And what about the HCHP companies that have existed over the years only to fade into oblivion?
HCHP touches on the areas of systems thinking, change management, and employee-focused leadership. With so much of the book seemingly targeting CEOs and executives, the book might also fall under the executive leadership genre. One important concept that Beer reiterates throughout the book is the notion of putting people before profits. While this theme is common among many books dedicated to the area of human capital, HCHP does an exceptional job of backing up this idea with data and real-world examples. Overall, this was a solid book, and I give it three out of four cups of coffee.