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How to Build High-Performing Companies


How to Build High-Performing Companies

There are some executives that like to look at academic journals but unfortunately the crossover literature has not reached them enough. I attempt to blend scholarly concepts with real-world applications. For the executive’s corner, I place a great deal of emphasis on the literature of knowledge management, information technology, strategy, and culture as four significant indicators for financial performance.

This article adds to a relatively small body of literature but pays homage to the scholarly contributions. I highlight the direct impact of these organizational factors on financial performance. This article actually investigates the crossover potential of scholarly research and how it can be applied in the organizational boardroom. Executives will also see that I expand upon the subject matter of a company’s internal resources. Insufficient consideration of the impacts of these resources on financial performance has been exposed and I attempt to address this concern. This article can portray a more detailed picture of the effects of knowledge management, information technology, strategy, and culture on financial performance that have been mentioned but not placed in a model in the past.

 Why Knowledge Management Is So Important To Financial Performance?

Executives across the globe have found that knowledge is critical to financial performance. Knowledge, in of itself, is not enough to satisfy the vast array of changes in today’s business environment. Knowledge management is only a necessary precursor to effectively managing knowledge within the organization. Organizational knowledge cannot merely be described as the sum of individual knowledge, but as a systematic combination of knowledge based on social interactions shared among organizational members. Executives agree with Haridimos Tsoukas who determines organizational knowledge as a collective mind, and Kiku Jones and Lori Leonard at The University of Tulsa who explain organizational knowledge as the knowledge that exists in the organization as a whole. [1] [2] Organizational knowledge is owned and disseminated by the organization.

The key take-away for executives is that organizational knowledge is a resource that enables companies to solve problems and create value through improved performance and it is this point that will narrow the gaps of success and failure leading to more successful decision-making. The key is for executives to convert individual knowledge into valuable resources to ensure that the knowledge is actually helping the organization grow profitably for all stakeholders.

Knowledge management can help companies identify their inefficiencies in organizational processes which can enable them to prevent further operational risk. The question remains. How does knowledge management impact your company’s financial performance? By answering this question, executives are able to answer the questions necessary to apply knowledge management to exploit financial performance for companies.

Knowledge is firstly created and acquired from external environments. This knowledge exchange with external business partners develops innovative environments that can enable companies to create a more innovative climate. This knowledge exchange also enhances the capabilities of companies in recognizing possible opportunities in the business environment and developing a more effective vision, including a more comprehensive array of information and insights about external environments.

Furthermore, executives need to focus on coordinating experts, sharing knowledge, and scanning the changes of knowledge requirements to keep the quality of their products or services in-line with market demand. It is apparent that this can help companies assessing the required changes to keep the quality of both products and services at maximum levels. Also, a systematic process of coordinating company-wide experts enables companies to effectively meet customer needs.

The knowledge within organizations also needs to be reconfigured to meet environmental changes and new challenges today. Knowledge is globally shared with other organizations. However, companies might lack the required capabilities or decide to decline from interacting acting with other companies, or even suffer the distrust to share their knowledge. In addition, expert groups may not have sufficient diversity in order to comprehend knowledge acquired from external sources. Networking with business partners is a key activity for companies to increase financial performance, thereby transferring knowledge among companies which creates better solutions for capturing the interest of customers and developing market share. The key here is that there are positive effects of knowledge management on financial performance.

Does Information Technology drive Financial Performance?

Information technology is necessary to build high-performing companies and also may be necessary as the globalized market demands are increasingly difficult to adapt and sustain profitability. Financial performance in global markets is dependent on continuous learning. Corporate learning plays a critical role and is a strategic prerequisite for increasing sales and market share in today’s knowledge-based economy. Effective corporate learning can enable companies to actively respond to environmental changes and customer needs and organizational members’ growth needs. Thus, information technology is a key factor that should be embraced at the senior level of organizations to enable financial performance in globalized markets by building a learning climate and empowering organizational members. In the absence of effective IT management, companies cannot implement successful plans in order to adapt to today’s global business environment.

Information technology is a key factor to improve financial performance for companies. Earlier studies clearly indicate that effective IT implementation significantly contributes to companies’ financial performance. These researches acknowledge that information technology is an important enabler to effectively manage business processes. Information technology can reduce paper-based transactions for companies that can potentially decrease costs and subsequently improve profitability for companies.

Furthermore, it can be seen that information technology enables companies to effectively identify opportunities in external business environment that leads to identify the best opportunities for investment that potentially improves financial performance in terms of return on investment. Information technology can also help companies to effectively create more innovative solutions for their organizational problems. More innovative solutions and better ideas can improve the quality of products and services, which in turn increases sales and market share for companies.

Business success for companies in today’s global business environment can be, therefore, achieved when information technology is effectively applied and widely used to achieve a higher degree of financial performance. When information technology can create a learning workplace and inspiring vision for future expansion into global markets, companies will secure a foothold in the ever-expansive global marketplace. Two important dimensions that all managers world-wide can learn from this article is that information technology can help companies to accomplish their goals that they would not ordinarily consider part of their competencies.

The question posited for top management executives and leaders in any and all companies is to accept the challenge of information technology implementation in order to address the current gaps in business effectiveness and improve their competitiveness in global markets. Thus, I recommend that executives should consider information technology as a key driver for improving financial performance in today’s hypercompetitive environment.

If Corporate Strategy Comes First, Company’s Financial Performance Will Follow

Executives are aware that corporate strategy mainly encompasses four aspects: analysis, pro-activeness, defensiveness, and futurity. So how can you as an executive use these four dimensions? Scholars provide a blueprint to follow:

-Analysis refers to the degree to which the roots of problems are analysed to provide the best solutions, which ultimately results in a more efficient allocation of resources to solve problems and also achieve organizational goals.

-Pro-activeness is defined as the extent to which a firm continuously searches for emerging opportunities in its business environment, and then actively participates in these opportunities by responding to changing trends.

-Defensiveness, which recommends undertaking defensive behaviors that manifest themselves in enhancing efficiency and in cutting costs while maintaining continuous budget-analysis and break-even points.

-Futurity is reflected in the degree to which the strategic decision-making process takes a two-way approach—-an emphasis on both long-term effectiveness and shorter-term efficiency concurrently.

Analysis strategy is regarded as the tendency to search for problems and their root causes and generates better alternatives to solve them. Analysis strategy, an academic term that is very applicable to executive span of control is also concurrently aired in the academic circles of higher education. For instance, analysis strategy is highly related to firms’ capacity to generate new ideas and knowledge and plays a crucial role in acquiring knowledge. Therefore, I appeal to executives across the globe that analysis strategy could improve the quality of products and services, which can in turn enhance profitability and market share.

I also feel that as executives use the pro-activeness strategy which refers to finding new opportunities and proactively responding to current challenges in external environments, they are also enhancing their span of control. Therefore, the pro-activeness strategy can provide a higher degree of knowledge through developing interactions with external environments. As executives effectively use knowledge management for projects and organizational investments they require a continuous investigation from external business environments. The pro-activeness strategy enables companies to identify changes in external environments and accordingly help them to actively respond to these emerging rapid changes.

Some executives feel that a defensive strategy, while necessary, sets a negative connotation on their span of control. However, it is believed that a defensiveness strategic approach enhances efficiency through cutting costs which in turn increases organizational revenue and the company’s financial performance.

Futurity strategy can also enhance financial performance by providing a series of clear guidelines for companies to track future trends in the business environment, and accordingly conduct “what-if” analysis and allocate organizational resources. My explanation of this is clearly within the executive span of control and potentially limits operational risk. My conclusion for executives is that organizational strategy has a positive association with financial performance. Therefore, I suggest that a firm’s ability to enhance financial performance can be highly affected when executives develop and implement an effective corporate strategy as the primary form of managing people, resources, and profitability.

Does Corporate Culture Increase Financial Performance?

Corporate culture is the resource that builds upon the foundations that helps organizations prosper. Andrew Pettigrew initially introduced the term corporate culture into the business literature. [3] Edgar Schein, one of the prominent management scholars, describes corporate culture as a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. [4] Corporate culture is, therefore, reflected in shared assumptions, symbols, beliefs, values and norms that specify how employees understand problems and appropriately react to them.

To analyze the relationship between corporate culture and financial performance, corporate culture could be visualized by its three major aspects, including collaboration, trust and learning. Both cultural aspects of collaboration and trust positively contribute to companies to effectively and actively respond to environmental changes and customer needs and employee growth needs through developing effective learning workplaces within these companies. Thus, these two cultural aspects can help companies to improve the quality of products and services and increase financial performance in terms of profitability and sales.

Learning culture is another cultural aspect sheds light on organizational capabilities to develop learning. It is quite understandable that this cultural aspect can particularly increase financial performance for companies, by developing suitable workplaces for employees to effectively share their knowledge with others. People, in fact, recognize how old resources can address new and problematic situations by sharing their knowledge within companies, and this can help to create more innovative ideas for organizational problems. David Maister in Harvard Business School in his book, Managing the Professional Service Firm, says that innovative ideas generation can improve profitability for companies. [5] Thus, I suggest that executives should consider corporate culture as an important enabler to enhance financial performance.

In Conclusion

This article may be the answer executives need but may also lack the fundamental fortitude necessary to be an all-encompassing model to predict financial performance. This article has started a mindset that encourages executives to investigate scholarly work to increase financial performance, enhance profitability and improve shareholder value. Executives can contribute to meet dynamic market needs, through reshaping an organization’s internal resources (i.e. knowledge management, information technology, strategy and culture) to meet the needs of customers in the marketplace. In fact, this article has been focusing on thus far is the needs of companies for enhancing financial success. This article presents executives with organizational factors that can be effectively manipulated to improve financial performance and become more profitable.


Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.


[1] Jones, K., & Leonard, L.K. (2009). From Tacit Knowledge to Organizational Knowledge for Successful KM. In W.R. King (Eds.), Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning, (pp. 27-39), Berlin: Springer.

[2] Tsoukas, H. (1996). The Firm as a Distributed Knowledge System: A Constructionist Approach. Strategic Management Journal, 17, 11-25.

[3] Pettigrew, A.M. (1979). On studying organizational cultures, Administrative Science Quarterly, 24(4), 570–581.

[4] Schein, E. (1984). Coming to a new awareness of organizational culture, Sloan Management Review, 25(2), 37–50.

[5] Maister, D.H. (1993). Managing the professional service firm, Free Press, New York.