High-performance groups do three things really well. They:

When most of us think about high-performance, we often fixate on the first item — achieving our goals, Getting Stuff Done. And of course, that’s important. Groups should achieve what they set out to do, and they should do those things really well.

However, high-performance groups don’t spend all of their time just focused on the “Doing” piece. In reality, high-performance groups spend a significant amount of time:

These are not discrete activities. They are often highly interconnected — Practicing and Experimenting are a form of Learning, and Doing is a form of Practicing, for example. They also can happen more informally. A team eating lunch together regularly, but informally can often serve as the space where Learning happens.

You might be able to get away with skipping some of these things for a while, but over time, it will eventually catch up to you and cause even more problems. High-performance is possible for every group, as long as you invest time and resources in all six of these steps.

Example: A Team of Rowers

Imagine a team of rowers. When the team is doing at a high-level, the whole team glides across the water, fast and in sync. It’s beautiful to watch.

In order to reach that high-performance stage, the team needs to align. If they’re not in agreement about where they want to go or how to get there, they’re not going to be able to perform effectively.

The team also has to maintain. If there are holes in the boat, they’re going to sink, regardless of how talented or aligned they are.

The team also has to experiment. What if the rules or the water conditions change? What if someone invents new techniques or technology? What’s working well for them now might not work well for them in the future.

The team also has to practice. No one executes anything perfectly the first time around. Repeating the movements over and over again and developing strong muscles and good habits are critical to success.

Finally, they have to learn. If they don’t take time to reflect on what they’ve learned and to make adjustments, they’re never going to improve.

Reflection Questions

What has been your best experience collaborating with a group (personal or professional)? Why was that experience great? What did the group do well? What could the group have done better?

How effective is your current group at:

  • Achieving its goals?
  • Flowing in alignment and intention?
  • Learning, adapting, and improving quickly?

How is your group:

  • Aligning?
  • Maintaining?
  • Experimenting?
  • Practicing?
  • Learning?

How much time is it spending in each of these areas? What would be the impact of investing more time in each of these areas? Where could that time come from?


Thanks to the following for their helpful feedback:

  • Jodi Engelberg
  • Brooking Gatewood
  • Shirley Huey
  • Travis Kriplean
  • Gail Taylor
  • Amy Wu
  • Odin Zackman