Learming Hub
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            [post_content] => Frances Ruane picFrances Ruane served as Director of the ESRI from 2006 to 2015.  She previously taught in the Dept of Economics at TCD, and earlier in her career she work at Queens University in Canada and at the Central Bank of Ireland and the IDA. In Ireland, her current activities include chair of the Interdepartmental Group on Making Work Pay for People with Disabilities at the Department of Social Welfare, membership of the Public Interest Committee of KPMG, and an Honorary Professor in the Department of Economics at Trinity College, where she contributes to the MSc in Economic Policy Studies. She is also a Research Affiliate at the ESRI and a member of the Royal Irish Academy.

IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business – what would they be?

FR: Look positively beyond the immediate.

  IMI: What does this mean? FR: After a period of rapid growth, the global financial crisis meant that Irish businesses had to concentrate on handling immediate challenges.  They managed that disruption well and this contributed to the strength of Ireland’s recovery.   But the focus on the immediate has left many businesses with legacy issues (debt burdens, under-investment in innovation, poor staff morale). And now businesses need to prepare for the medium term when we discover what is really meant by ‘Brexit means Brexit’.  Forward looking businesses leaders need now to ask: what could Brexit mean for my market and company? Where am I exposed to risk and how can I mitigate it?   [post_title] => "Look positively beyond the immediate" Six Word Wisdom from Frances Ruane [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => look-positively-beyond-immediate-six-word-wisdom-frances-ruane [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 19:52:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 19:52:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=16052 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12567 [post_author] => 71 [post_date] => 2015-10-23 10:58:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-23 10:58:22 [post_content] =>

In my opinion there are three organisation wide people focused initiatives that I have found particularly helpful in creating high performance cultures:

  pedro  blog The result: A workforce with the right capabilities, willing to go the extra mile (engaged) and enabled to perform at their best. An organisation where strategic priorities and culture are aligned and working together to deliver an exceptional customer experience and, in turn, impact / profits and shareholder value.

Building Capabilities:

Capability building is central to organisational performance. There is a need to identify and focus development interventions on those competencies that add the most value to the organisation’s business performance i.e. those that enable the effective execution of the organisation’s strategy. A recent Economist study reported that “61% of respondents acknowledge that their firms often struggle to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and its day-to-day implementation". Moreover, in the last three years an average of just "56% of strategic initiatives has been successful.”1. Companies can improve on this track record by paying far greater attention to the capabilities they need to successfully implement their strategy. C.K. Prahalad and G Hamel, in their HBR article “The Core Competence of the Corporation” argue that “the real sources of advantage are to be found in management’s ability to consolidate corporate-wide technologies and production skills into competencies that empower individual businesses to adapt quickly to changing opportunities”. They go further to state that unlike products, technology and processes which can be easily copied and replicated, core competencies are difficult for competitors to imitate and therefore can become a unique source of long term competitive advantage.


A common mistake organisations make is to over-focus on today’s capability needs at the detriment of important longer-term capability needs that might end up not being addressed. This requires organisations to look into the external environment to identify future threats, challenges and opportunities and their impact on the capability requirements of the organisation going forward.


There is a growing body of evidence over the past decade that validates (1) that engaged employees outperform their non-engaged co-workers and (2) the quantifiable relationship between levels of organizational engagement and financial performance Engagement is an employee’s willingness to expend discretionary effort / to go the extra mile at work Towers Watson’s Global Workforce Study 2014 found that only 4 in 10 employees are highly engaged; that close to a quarter (24%) are disengaged, and another 36% can be described as either unsupported or detached. A full 60% of employees lack the elements required to be highly engaged. This engagement gap presents a great challenge but also a great opportunity to improve organisational performance Organisations need to make engagement an organisational priority led from the top, assess current employee engagement levels and, develop and implement engagement plans.

Supportive Work Environment

Capability building and staff engagement, however, can take a company only so far. Factors specifically related to the work environment also play a critical role. That is, organisations need to provide employees with the support they need to do their work efficiently and effectively. E.g. providing people with the tools, resources and support to do their job effectively, giving them meaningful work and creating an environment that promotes employees’ physical, social and emotional well-being. In these environments:
  • People are clear on the strategic direction of their organisation and what they are expected to deliver and the way in which to deliver it (Role Clarity)
  • People understand how their job contributes to the success of his/her department and organisation (Task Identity)
  • People understand the positive impact their work has on others within or outside the organization (Task significance)
  • People are trusted, empowered and given the right level of autonomy to perform their role (Autonomy)
  • People are given enough on the job learning and growth opportunities to improve themselves and achieve their potential (Mastery)
  • People receive on-going constructive feedback on performance from customers, colleagues and the manager for development
  While an organisation’s culture can become its main source of long term sustainable competitive advantage, proactively managing, improving or changing is one of the most difficult leadership challenges.

Can your organisation’s leadership opt out?

If so, do they run the risk of their organisation becoming less and less attractive to employees and shareholders? Becoming irrelevant?

What do you think? Would love to hear your views on this blog as well as your thoughts on things / initiatives that can enable the creation of a high performance culture.

  1“Why Good Strategies Fail: Lessons for the C-Suite,” Economist Intelligence Unit, 2013, http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Publications/WhyGoodStrategiesFail_Report_EIU_PMI.ashx  
Pedro Angulo is the new Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Strategic HR Management and contributes on the IMI Diploma in Executive Coaching. Pedro is an Organisational Effectiveness Business Partner in AIB and Chairperson of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He is a motivational speaker and regular presenter at HR, coaching, change and business conferences / events. _____________________________________ [post_title] => And the result: A workforce with the right capabilities & willing to go the extra mile [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => result-workforce-right-capabilities-willing-go-extra-mile [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:33:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:33:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=12567 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7868 [post_author] => 36 [post_date] => 2014-07-28 11:54:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-07-28 11:54:47 [post_content] =>   Being first to a new market brings huge first mover advantages, in that a company gets a chance to establish market presence before its competitors. However, there is also the downside risk of committing scarce resources to an untested market and essentially taking a 'bet', that hopefully will result in a profitable revenue stream. BRICS_leaders_in_Brazil Fifteen years ago it was Eastern Europe, ten years ago it was the BRICs, if you are an organisation planning an international market entry strategy - it can really pay off to know - Where are the next emerging markets going to be? The 'bet' taken by companies that pioneered their way into the BRICs over the last decade has, in many cases, paid dividends. These huge markets are now a standard element of many companies' growth strategies. With their large demographic bases and rising incomes, they will continue to be an attractive source of revenue. However, the BRICs are not without their challenges. For example,   despite the extra revenue generated by the recent World Cup, most economists are predicting GDP growth in Brazil of little more than 1 per cent for 2014, less than the growth rate of many developed countries. In fact some economists are even talking about the possibility of a technical recession. Despite these challenges, companies will continue to grow their presence in the BRICs and exploit their huge market potential.   So now that most companies have an awareness of the opportunities in the BRICs, what is the next wave of countries that will offer that all elusive first mover advantage? Respondents to the 2012 EY globalization survey of 800 CEOs from around the world, believe that the most attractive emerging markets outside of the BRICs are Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico and South Africa. The reasons given, include access to nearby markets, political stability, and transport and technology infrastructure.  Many of these markets also show consistently high economic growth close to that of the leading BRICs. For example, Turkey, Mexico and Indonesia closely shadow China and India in terms of GDP growth from 2000 through 2015. Is it time now to develop a quirky acronym for the next wave or should we wait until it reaches its crest? As it stands, South Africa is often slipped into the BRICs acronym athe 'S'. In fact the BRICS summit includes South Africa, along with the other four developing nations. So if these emerging countries develop into the next wave, what will they be called? How about the TIMs (Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico, and/or South Africa) or maybe even the MITs (Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, and/or South Africa)? Regardless of where this next wave comes from there are key capabilities that you can be building up now in your organisation to take advantage of the emerging new markets. These international business capabilities apply not just in your sales and marketing department but across all the functions of your organisation. Want to know if you're ready? Ask yourself and your team the five questions below..
  1. Do you have a sales pipeline process that takes account of the optimum approach for market penetration?
  2. Can you critically analyse your potential customer's buying process and do you know how to deploy the appropriate marketing and sales response for market penetration?
  3. Can you apply macro and industry research capabilities to inform strategic decisions?
  4. Do you understand the cultural and communication challenges of international business development enough to enable you to devise an appropriate organisational response, as well as building individual cultural agility?
  5. Do you have the capability to transfer valuable knowledge between organisational entities in different countries?
If you have or can develop the above capabilities - then regardless of where the next wave comes from you and your organisation will be well-placed to take advantage of it. Norma Murphy is Programme Director of the new IMI Diploma in International Business Development an accredited programme which develops the capability of managers and business owners to manage across multiple jurisdictions or to grow their businesses in the dynamic global marketplace.  Her expertise is in Global Strategic Management and Project Management on Masters level and customised executive education programmes and she has over 14 years industry experience in Multinational IT companies. Her work focusses on combining research-based knowledge into practical organisational strategy. For more information on the IMI Diploma in International Business Development click here or contact to one of our programme advisors on programmeadvisors@imi.ie or 1800 22 33 88.     [post_title] => Beyond the BRICs: Is your organisation set to benefit from the next emerging markets? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => beyond-brics-next-wavethe-tims-mits [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 21:06:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 21:06:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=7868 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12562 [post_author] => 71 [post_date] => 2016-10-25 10:26:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-25 10:26:33 [post_content] =>

Touching back on my last blog I mentioned that culture needs to become a strategic business priority (like sales, profit, etc.) and not just a HR priority.

boat with leader Source: www.clubsolutionsmagazine.com

Leadership teams can start the creation of high performance cultures by implementing the following 6 steps:

1. Establish a sense of urgency

They need to make it clear that the current culture needs to change, articulate the vision and business case, and describe the opportunity (as John P. Kotter states in his book The 8-Step Process for Leading Change) in a way that appeals to the hearts and minds of people.

2. Develop a set of strategic beliefs

These are the beliefs senior executives have about their organisation’s environment that enables shaping business strategy e.g. Dell believed that customers would, if the price was right, buy computers from a catalogue rather than go to computer stores as the conventional wisdom dictated they would. They created a $7 billion business.

3. Develop a set of values

Values enable the organisation to act on its strategic beliefs and implement their strategy the right way. Values shape the culture of an organisation, define its character and serve as a foundation in how people act and make decisions. Dell’s values supporting its strategy and strategic beliefs include: Delivering results that make a positive difference; leading with openness and optimism and winning with integrity.

4. Capitalise on quick wins

Capitalize on and honour your cultural strengths and act quickly on any critical behaviour changes required.

5. Challenge those norms that get on the way of high performance

Norms are informal guidelines about what is considered normal (what is correct or incorrect) behaviour in a particular situation. Peer pressure to conform to team norms is a powerful influencer on people’s behaviour, and it is often a major barrier affecting change. It is always easier to go along with the norm than trying to change it…. Common samples of negative norms in some organisations: Perception that it is ok to yell at people, ignore people’s opinions, etc.

6. Role model and recognise the desired behaviours

As Gandhi wonderfully put it “Be the change you want to see in the world”. This empowers action and helps embed the desired culture you are trying to create. Behaviour is a function of its consequences. Behaviour that results in pleasant consequences is more likely to be repeated, and behaviour that results in unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated. According to B. F. Skinner and reinforcement theory “future behavioural choices are affected by the consequences of earlier behaviours”. The argument is clear; if you want people to be brave and challenge the status quo, you shouldn’t make them feel awkward or like difficult employees when they do. Furthermore, if want people to contribute at meetings make sure you actively listen to them and act on their suggestions and ideas.


On his famous article “On the folly of rewarding A while hoping for B” Steven Kerr argues that the way in which we reward and recognise people doesn’t always deliver the desired results. We all have being in situations where we are told to plan for long-term growth yet we are rewarded purely on quarterly earnings; we are asked to be a team player and are rewarded solely on our individual efforts; we are told that the way in which results are achieved is important and yet we promote people who achieve results the wrong / in a Machiavellian way. A friend of mine was recently at a hospital and he complained to the ward manager about the doctor’s bad manners and rudeness. The answer he got was “do you want to be treated by the best heart doctor in the country or a not so good doctor but with a really nice bed manner?”.

My argument is why can’t we have both?

Pedro Angulo is the Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Strategic HR Management starting on 16th November 2016. Pedro is an Organisational Effectiveness Business Partner in AIB and Chairperson of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He is a motivational speaker and regular presenter at HR, coaching, change and business conferences / events. _____________________________________ [post_title] => 6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 6-strategies-start-creation-high-performance-cultures [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 19:48:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 19:48:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=12562 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Cormac Lucey

Cormac Lucey

13th Aug 2018

Cormac Lucey is an IMI associate on the IMI Diploma in Business Finance.

Related Articles

"Look positively beyond the immediate" Six Word Wisdom from Frances Ruane
And the result: A workforce with the right capabilities & willing to go the extra mile
Beyond the BRICs: Is your organisation set to benefit from the next emerging markets?
6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures

Multinationals’ smoke and mirrors obscure our strong indigenous performance

There have been many explanations offered for the surprisingly large “yes” vote Ireland’s recent constitutional referendum. It was the vigour and organisation of the pro-choice campaign.

It was the impact of youth voters. It was the fortitude of those who have fought for decades on the issue. In my view, the key factor was Ireland’s rapid economic growth. Consider the contrast in abortion regimes that is now opening up between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The referendum on the 8th was passed by a large majority – was economics a primary cause?
(Photo source)

A century ago, the north was the economically advanced part of the island. This helped unionism mobilise against nationalism: opposing a united Ireland didn’t just involve rejection of Rome rule; it was also a renunciation of economic backwardness.

In the ensuing hundred years, and particularly over the past 30 years, the relative economic situation has completely reversed. This is largely down to a stupendously successful strategy of using low corporate taxation to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

The Republic is now more advanced economically, and the north is trapped in backwardness of the economic, political and social varieties. As a result, social attitudes in the south have overtaken those in the north.

Those who voted against constitutional change, of course, will question whether we’ve overtaken the north or fallen behind it. Yet, in the context of west European democracy, the Republic is now in line on the issue of abortion whereas the north remains an anomaly.

Can Current Economic Trends Predict Future Social Policies?

In the world’s advanced economies, real economic output per head has grown about 2% annually over the past century. This allows us living standards more than seven times higher than those of our great-grandparents. It is this — and not greater virtue — which largely explains our greater social liberalism.

If rising incomes play an outsized role in the formation of domestic political opinion, then what do current trends suggest for the future? The Central Statistics Office (CSO) recently published a comprehensive report on productivity in Ireland that offers some clues.

Productivity measures how efficiently an economy converts inputs into outputs. Productivity growth can be analysed into changes of labour productivity (how output grows relative to each hour of labour input), capital productivity (how output grows relative to each euro of capital invested), and multi-factor productivity (how output grows even with unchanged labour and capital inputs because of improved working methods).

Given constraints of labour and capital here, it’s really growth in multi-factor productivity (MFP) that explains today’s higher living standards compared with yesteryear.

The Celtic Tiger Mirage

Interestingly, labour productivity grew at an average rate of 2.1% between 2002 and 2008 but expanded annually by 6.6% in the years following 2008. This underlines the economic mirage that was the Celtic tiger: it was a bubble based on loose credit and the increased deployment of workers into lower productivity jobs in sectors such as construction, real estate and distribution, transport, hotels and restaurants. The years that followed the crash, while very difficult, initially saw fewer workers working more efficiently, and that efficiency has been maintained even since a sharp fall in unemployment that began around five years ago.

Behind the pleasant overall figures, we find significant anomalies, however. For example, labour productivity grew by a 23.5% in 2015. That was the year Ireland’s GDP figure flew off the scale and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman described the impact of multinationals on our national statistics as “leprechaun economics”.

The CSO productivity has therefore separately analysed the domestic and FDI sectors in terms of their productivity. Within the FDI sector, rather pleasingly, between 2000 and 2016 labour productivity grew at an average annual rate of 9.7%. However, over the same period, output per unit of capital dropped significantly. Critically, MFP in the FDI sector declined at an average rate of 4.1% annually.

The bulk of that decline occurred in 2015 when MFP in the FDI sector dropped by a leprechaun-like 57.2%. It begs the question, does ‘Official Ireland’ really understand what the multinationals are up to here?

A Picture of Productivity

Thankfully, the productivity picture in the indigenous sector is clearer and easier to grasp. Labour productivity grew by an average annual rate of 2.5% between 2000 and 2016, with the bulk of that growth occurring after the economic crisis hit in 2008. But capital productivity dropped 2%, meaning that MFP has grown by only 0.6% annually since the turn of the century.

The CSO also reports that Ireland’s domestic sector experienced the largest increase in labour productivity among the EU-15 — member states that joined prior to May 2004. This is a very positive picture for a sector often portrayed as the poor cousin of our FDI sector.

Labour productivity growth has not been uniform across the different sectors of the economy. Industry and information and communication have seen significant rises in labour productivity. Industry has become four times more productive in 2016 than in 2000. The information and communication sector are three times more productive. Labour productivity in financial and insurance activities increased by just over 50%. However, productivity in public administration, education and health rose just 9%. Construction saw almost no change in productivity over this entire period.

Overall, it is almost impossible to work out what’s really happening in the FDI sector as a result of its transfer pricing, corporate reorganisation and intellectual property manoeuvres. Meanwhile Ireland’s domestic sector is making steady progress and, since 2000, has outpaced its west European neighbours.

That’s something to be toasted with a glass of indigenously produced Irish whiskey.


Cormac Lucey is an IMI associate on the IMI Diploma in Business FinanceCormac is also a Financial Services Consultant and Contractor who has previously worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Rabobank Frankfurt and the Department of Justice.