A Peak Performance weblog


No matter what we individuals do in life, it has two aspects, our ongoing experience, and the recording of our intentions, goals, and actions. As a shorthand analogy to a sporting event, we might call these two aspects of the ‘game of life’ the experiential field and the scoreboard.

To facilitate progress toward personal and organizational goals, each individual can define performance values to measure his/her involvement along one or more dimensions of the experiential field. As we act to accomplish our goals, we can then periodically measure these values as a way to evaluate and drive our progress.

Then, assuming that individuals periodically make suitable redefinitions of their performance values, the following two practices should optimally drive and sustain long-term individual and, for those involved in organizations, organizational progress–including simultaneously improving productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity:

(1) The primary practice, related to the experiential field:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the field as often as one can, while:

(2) Acting and keeping one’s scoreboard “at the back of one’s mind.”

Introducing the Issues Addressed

Employees and management alike suffer from the lack of a vision and operational method of optimal work which truly provides and actively fosters a natural meeting ground for both personal fulfillment and corporate results, and which inspires people toward peak performance, self-actualization, and optimal well-being.

We can inquire first, whether there actually is a balanced, general vision of Optimal Work. If so, instead of the modern preoccupation with bottom-line results, it would ideally balance concerns about productivity, product and service quality, and employee well-being and work capacity. And if it’s truly general–applicable to any person, environment, culture, and task–it cannot be defined in terms of organizational structures, management styles, employee habits, and best practices or processes.   Though such a vision can’t prescribe specific practices or processes, perhaps it could tell us how best to do processes and practices by defining a set of possible experiential “performance values” and tracking our progress within this set.

Second, we can inquire how workers can best motivate themselves, or be motivated.  Besides the usual external carrot-and-stick management methods, there is the inherent drive for self-actualization described by Maslow.  Are there ways for individual workers to set up a challenging atmosphere centered on this perennial, intrinsic drive? If so, how can management establish extrinsic organizational goals and yet support this intrinsic drive? Might it even be possible to foster a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and organizational results that has real potential for breaking through the typical employee distrust of management’s motives?


No matter what we individuals do in life, it has two aspects, our ongoing experience, and the recording of our intentions, goals, and actions. As a shorthand analogy to a sporting event, we might call these two aspects of the ‘game of life’ the experiential field and the scoreboard.

I propose that to optimally facilitate progress, each individual should maintain a scoreboard that represents progress toward both personal and organizational goals (determined as described in step 1 below), and should then focus on one’s experiential field while making different possible ‘moves’ of increasing involvement defined by performance values measured along one or more dimensions (this will soon be explained further).


In a typical organization the primary emphasis is on productivity and the bottom-line Outer gameboard goals (step 1). Sometimes there is a secondary emphasis on quality.  Very seldom is there even the simple recognition of the importance of the natural process of trying to deepen our concentration and involvement in the experiential field when we try to improve performance.

Emphasizing results on the scoreboard can negatively affect employee well-being. By focusing on results without a balanced attention to their well-being (which can be measured on the experiential field) employees may produce a great deal during a long work crunch, yet burn out in the process.  It’s clear that focusing on results, often touted as a kind of overall ‘best practice’, does not guarantee optimal employee well-being or even long-term productivity.  As Kenneth Blanchard asked in Managing By Values, when you’re playing tennis, what kind of results can you expect if you keep focused on the scoreboard–measuring profit or ‘results’–rather than the ball?  (Blanchard, p. 49)

However, with a set of experiential performance values (defined in step 2), you can drive balanced, overall personal and organizational progress–including improving quality, and employee well-being–if everyone focuses on increasing their own engagement/involvement on the experiential field (see “What Guarantees Optimal Productivity and Well-Being?”  http://www.manage-time.com/involve.html ) rather than focusing on the scoreboard, productivity, or the bottom line, all of which are lagging indicators.  In the preceding chapter we saw how measuring involvement provides immediate feedback to drive progress.

For clarity in this article we can distinguish two types of involvement, behavioral and inner. Behavioral involvement is measured in terms of a person’s actions, or observable behavior. For example, one might join a group concerned with the disarmament movement.  This type of involvement is often noted in black-and-white terms–that is, you’re either involved in a movement or you’re not. Most of the literature on involvement or engagement uses this behavioral meaning (for example, see dictionary.reference.com).

However, use of the word involvement in this article often refers to inner, or experiential involvement, which is measured by the degree to which one is fully preoccupied or experientially absorbed in whatever is at hand. It focuses on change in one’s inner experience. While inner involvement is also often seen in black-and-white terms, it can instead be defined and used as a work performance measure that varies along one or more dimensions of the experiential field (discussed in detail below).

Outer involvement behavior, such as attending meetings, is often accompanied by ‘moves’ or changes in inner involvement, but these two aren’t always congruent: people can just ‘act the part’: “talk the talk” outside, but still not “walk the walk” inside. For a significant contribution, ‘inner’ buy-in is necessary, mere behavioral compliance is insufficient.


To clarify what inner involvement is and how it changes at transition points, and perhaps to see how numerous the possibilities are, you can examine this account of an extended work period during which involvement increases gradually for some time, then decreases a while. Increasing involvement is defined in the case of this example simply as “a more complete integration of the experiential aspects of the work scenario;” decreasing involvement is “greater disintegration of experiential aspects of the work scenario.”

I have a speech I need to prepare. There’s a feeling of dread. It’s Monday, and the speech is to be delivered Thursday. It takes considerable effort to even think about getting started on the script. I need to get it done, but I don’t want to. I could avoid the feeling of dread and the task of speechwriting, but I’m not going to be that irresponsible. So I allow the feeling to be there, and begin to make notes about the talk. The sense of dread gradually dissipates.

I visualize myself speaking a few days from now, at a point along a linear time line that extends from here in the present to Thursday. I feel time flowing strongly and relentlessly in the background. There’s pressure and a subtle sense of anxiety attending the flow of time. I could focus on the deadline up ahead and the feeling of time slipping by, and make myself more anxious, but I decide to let go of these unproductive concerns and focus on the work. The pressure and anxiety about the deadline gradually subside as I turn toward the work a little more.

After I get more of an outline for the talk, it begins to feel like writing this speech is a kind of ‘thing’ that I have to do, something very separate from me, almost forced upon me. I notice my feeling that it’s being imposed from outside. There’s a tendency to take the idea at face value, to believe it and react to it. But from another perspective it’s clear that no one is forcing me to do this. It’s my decision. As this becomes very clear, I relax a bit and think about what to do next.

Although the task is no longer just an idea to me, I still experience the work from outside, as an observer who is not “into it.” The papers feel distant from my body. I am aware of a lot of other objects in the room, as well as other things that I have to do in the next few days. My energy is somewhat scattered. The subject-object split and the scattered energy are recognized as signs that there is an opportunity for more involvement in the scenario. I could see these experiences as being normal, but from past experience it’s clear that they are common, yet not ‘normal,’ and if I take them as being realistic for this kind of work, the work scenario will not improve.

I write down some more ideas that I want to present, visualize myself giving the speech, and check the list to see what is missing. I write down a few more ideas. I feel a little puzzled about the order of these ideas. There’s some momentum to write more ideas down as well as a draw to examine the confusion. I know if I simply rush to put more ideas down, I may miss something important. I face the confusion, and soon realize that a couple of the topics would be better at a different place in the talk.

Things begin to flow a little more easily. Although time is not passing so strongly from past to present to future, more work ‘events’ seem to be occurring every minute, as if some other kind of momentum was accelerating. I reorganize the list, then read the list from beginning to end, once again visualizing giving the talk. At this point I am considerably more involved in the work. I am not aware of other projects I have to do, or other objects in the room. I am not an observer separate from the work. In fact, there is only a slight boundary that is sometimes felt between my mind and body and the papers. When I am thinking, I am often not aware of any objects at all. The quality of thinking is different also, not so much like ‘I’ am pushing the thoughts. Although a bit of effort is required on my part, the thoughts and the work seem to flow somewhat by themselves. And this is not just a feeling, I’m getting the work done more quickly. The insight about rearranging topics clearly came on its own, with no volition on my part. My feeling of time has changed considerably. Time has only a subtle flow apart from me and the work. I feel very little anxiety about time passing toward the deadline.

Now the writing really takes on a life of its own. Ideas come easily, and insights are frequent, surprising me again and again. The material seems completely original. The process is creative in the sense of presenting material that seems new and fresh, not arising from any apparent source. I experience wonder and awe at the process and the accuracy and value of the content written. I feel good about being able to participate in this process. Periodically there are little bits of pride that arise as I congratulate myself on my improved progress. I have thoughts about rewarding myself by taking a break. There seem to be more points at which these interruptions and others are noticed. I could take a break, but I know I would miss the strong flow of the work and the fulfillment I am experiencing, let alone the opportunity to get so much done so quickly. It is also realized that congratulating myself on ‘my’ progress doesn’t make much sense, since it doesn’t feel like ‘I’ am the source of the flow. These distractions are noticed and disappear very quickly.

There are no noticeable feelings of anxiety, fear, or pressure. Nor is there a feeling of time passing. I am not aware of objects in the room, nor of the work as a ‘thing’ or project. There is little felt separation between ‘my’ mind and the thinking and writing being done.

At some point, I get confused about the message I want to get across in the speech. There’s a strong tendency to avoid the confusion, and a pull to continue the momentum of the work and figure out what to write next. My mind starts to wander, and I look at the clock and realize it’s almost time for my favorite TV show. I know this is the best time to do this work, but pretty soon I’m thinking about how I might be able to finish my work after the show is over and during my free time the next couple of days. Yes, it seems possible! I think I have enough time. With some subtle anxiety lurking in the background, I procrastinate, put my work aside, and begin to watch the show.

The flow of work has stopped and time slips by quickly again. While I’m watching TV, I’m slightly anxious, subtly aware of what time it is and how much time I have till the end of the show, when I’ll return to my work. Watching television is not a flowing experience now, nor is it as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. My mind is divided between the show and being aware that I really want to do my work. I am self-consciously watching TV here in the present, feeling anxious and guilty about a job waiting for me in the future. My experience is divided into present and future, into an anxious self and the relentless flow of time. Besides anxiety, I also feel guilty or pressured about not getting the job done. The scenario is complicated, with my awareness divided, time partitioned into present and future, strongly ambivalent feelings about what’s happening, and a persistent sense of separation between myself, the TV, and my work.


In the previous section, we concluded that work progress naturally results from (1) noticing the transition points where your (inner) involvement could either increase or decrease, making the scenario either more simple/integrated or complicated/fragmented, and then (2) making a ‘move’ in the direction of increasing involvement. This is the natural way that we improve productivity usually without even thinking about it.

This leads to a hypothesis about the best way to drive progress.  Presuming that there is sufficient organizational support (mostly management understanding and trust) for the environment described below in steps 1 and 2, the following work practices should optimally drive and sustain both long-term individual and organizational progress–including simultaneously improving productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity–in any culture and environment:

(1) The primary practice, focused on the experiential field:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ as often as one can (a process defined as continuous improvement), while:

(2) Working and keeping measures of one’s progress and goals (the scoreboard) “at the back of one’s mind.”

The significant presumption of the hypothesis is that the ‘inner’ playing field and the scoreboard are not separate, but related parts of our larger reality in which moves on the inner, experiential field drive both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ progress.  Although most people in most cultures and in these times have become preoccupied with the outer world, this statement redirects the emphasis and says that the inner field is essential–outer results somehow follow directly from inner progress. In the book Peak, Chip Conley confirms this: “I came to realize that creating peak experiences for employees, customers, and investors fostered peak performance for my company.”

This approach to optimal work constitutes a version of what might be called Managing by Actualizing Values (MBAV), similar to Blanchard’s Managing by Values approach, for which it’s stated, “When we keep our eyes on consistently operating our business by aligning with our core values, the scoreboard does in fact take care of itself!” (Blanchard, p. 49)

We could reword it this way:  Actualizing values drives inner and outer progress.  When people perform at their best, their attention is primarily on qualities of their immediate experience of working, or on what could be called inner performance values–they are not preoccupied with measuring or tallying the products and services they are producing or delivering.  As Blanchard says, when people do their best, “all of their attention is on what they’re doing . . . . The results just seem to flow from this focus of energy . . . . Lots of companies seem to watch only their scoreboard–-the bottom line.” (Blanchard, p. 3)

Three steps are suggested for implementing this Managing by Actualizing Values approach.


Each person identifies and prioritizes his or her personal and organizational goals using common time management practices (For example, see conventional time management (http://www.manage-time.com/103Frames.html  on the Results in No Time website at www.manage-time.com).  This action is initially done, and updated periodically when useful, by every individual in the organization, whether manager or individual contributor.

One should not start with an organization’s mission alone, which just limits possibilities at the outset.  Any organization is just part of a much larger whole, and the MBAV goal here is to improve performance in life in general, not to limit oneself to only personal or corporate goals.  Anyway, any effort to keep corporate and personal goals separate is artificial and confusing at best–our personal lives affect our corporate lives, and vice versa.

Organizational goal-setting may be done privately by management, or more publicly with (external) involvement or participation by other employees. The organization must at the very least, somehow clarify and periodically update its goals and mission, and pass this direction on to all employees.

These goals then are up for adoption by every individual employee–and it’s still up to the individual to decide whether to adopt them.  In some cases there may be personal ethical or moral objections.  In Managing by Values, Blanchard says, “a company  creates  a motivating environment for its people–one in which  employees can  see that  working  toward  the  organization’s  goals is in their  best  interest.” (Blanchard, p. 23) However, presuming that this is in fact the case can be misleading or even dangerous, and personal freedom and integrity takes priority over trying to accommodate an organizational decision that one doesn’t put faith or credence in.

Personal goal-setting may be done privately or in a group setting.  Ideally an organization will provide time for identifying personal goals.  Doing so demonstrates management’s understanding of the close connection and interrelationship of personal and organizational goals, as well as support for, and trust in the efficacy of MBAV.


As discussed in my article “What Guarantees Optimal Productivity and Well-Being?” (http://www.manage-time.com/involve.html, with a shorter version at https://stevrandal.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/boosting-productivity-quality-and-well-being) inner, experiential involvement in the current scenario is directly proportional to employee well-being, productivity, and quality of product and service. We could symbolize it this way:  I ~ W*P*Q.  Thus tracking and improving experiential involvement is both an indicator and a driver of all aspects of progress.  In addition, unlike other measures of progress defined in terms of specific results, services, or production processes, the natural practice of tracking involvement–however it is defined, as discussed below–has the important benefit that it can be used not only while focusing on any task, but also as you switch between tasks, or even when there is no apparent task at hand.

Inner involvement is operationally defined as a measurement of one or more dimensions, with each dimension having a set of work-process or performance values that are experientially possible during a work period.  For this step, each individual should specify his/her personal set of performance values to be used to measure inner progress at work, and if desirable, during other times as well. There are many ways to do this—your choices will probably depend in part on your own personality, goals, and religious or spiritual disciplines. Consider the core values that, for you or your organization, will guide and shape the way you fulfill your purpose.  Whatever your selection, how you define engagement or involvement will determine what your suggestions are for improving them.  Your definition will also determine whether truly continuous improvement can be fostered using the performance values—some specifications do not provide sufficient granularity for continuous improvement.

As a first example of how to do this, one’s performance level can be measured very simply along a single dimension by choosing one of the following seven ‘values’:  (1) avoiding, (2) holding back, (3) being resigned to doing something, (4) getting into it, (5) being involved, (6)  being absorbed, (7) being completely engrossed. Then at work you can periodically recall your recent experience as if you were viewing a videotape replay, determine which of these five performance values best fits your experience, and then look for ways to improve. Using these values provides a rough measure of involvement.

A second way to track engagement: define it as a combined measure of three dimensions, awareness (A), concentration (C), and energy (E) (See Tulku, 1994, pp. 120-129).  You can assign numbers from 0% to 100% for each of the three dimensions, and use the average of the three values for the combined measure of involvement.

Third, you could estimate involvement as a combined measure of three dimensions of integration, energy-flow, and spaciousness:  a high degree of involvement can indicate an experiential melding of objects and individuals, an effortless yet powerful flow of events, and a sense of openness pervading the entire work scenario. A low degree of involvement could mean that individuals and objects were strongly felt to be separate, intense effort was required to get small things done, or the work scenario had a heavy or inert feeling.

Fourth, for fine granularity and precision, you could (a) define engagement as a combined measure of the twelve dimensions defined in an article on the zone published in the Jossey-Pfeiffer Bass 2007 Annual.  These dimensions or aspects of the zone approximate irreducible aspects of peak experience.

Then (b), as in the second way to track engagement above, chart the rise and fall of these twelve factors throughout the day by periodically considering the following questions that contrast various aspects of ordinary work from peak performance:

1. Are you applying effort or control to something that feels separate from you, or does your activity seem to flow effortlessly ‘by itself’?

2. Do things feel familiar, somewhat predictable, or even habitual, or does each new moment, along with all that appears in the momentary scenario, seem spontaneous and fresh?

3. Are you looking forward to being done with the work, or are you currently fulfilled within your work-in-progress?

4. Do objects and events take up space and appear to be separate and dispersed, or are do they seem intimately connected in and even as one space?

5. Is there a private space or personal world that feels separate from everything outside, or do inner and outer, subjective and objective appear to be inseparable facets of the same undivided space?

6. Is there a sense of self that stands apart from experience and externals, or do you feel identified with, or absorbed in, what is happening?

7. Is knowledge simply something that you or others possess or lack, or is there a sense of being intimately part of what’s around you, knowing things that are happening ‘from inside’ them?

8. Is knowledge only identification, categorization, judgment, and detached observation, or also an illuminating clarity merged with the subject being explored?

9. Are there divisions among your self, mind, body, and personality, or is there a natural sense of wholeness, fulfillment, and satisfaction?

10. Are you driven by a need or a desire for pleasure, or is everything being found to be immediately and inherently fulfilling?

11. Do you notice a feeling of time flowing in the background, or are you timelessly involved in something?

12. Does reality seem solid, fixed, and substantial, or does everything seem somewhat fluid or dreamlike?

However you define your involvement system, it would probably be helpful to compose some questions to help determine your current performance level and the direction for progress.

For a particular individual, the transformational efficacy of a set of values depends on the individual’s level of development. What’s good for most people may not help a peak performer, and vice versa. Consider relating to one’s work using average performance values limited by inculcated experiential strictures (see https://stevrandal.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/whats-the-zone-of-peak-performance/ on my blog).  An individual who is experientially separate from the work action, and who experiences the flow of time from past to present and future, has ‘room for improvement’ in the transition toward peak performance values. Because the spectrum of fitting values is broad, the MBAV approach recognizes that each individual is, and should be, the final arbiter of which values to use for transformational and practical purposes.

If, because of your growing insight and realization, you periodically make appropriate revisions of your personal definitions of involvement, these performance values could gradually approach the irreducible, core values of the ‘zone’ of self-actualization.  By thus improving the precision with which you observe the workflow, you will have the granularity of feedback necessary to directly approach peak performance.

Besides helping to empower every individual worker, centering our approach to peak performance on increasing involvement relieves management of the effort involved in carrot and stick methods of motivation. These methods depend on repeatedly filling individuals’ lower-level needs (such as approval and security), which can only be temporarily satisfied.   In contrast, the motivation toward self-actualization does not seem to die out.  As Andrew Grove pointed out, “Unlike other sources of motivation . . . self-actualization continues to motivate people to ever higher levels of performance.” (Grove, pp. 163-4) Thus he suggests that “Our role as managers is . . . to . . . bring them to the point where self-actualization motivates them” (Grove, p. 168)

Another huge advantage of this MBAV approach is that there’s no need to persuade or convert anyone (including managers, who often “don’t have time for” this kind of approach) to adopt a particular set of values, practices, beliefs, or disciplines. The method allows and even fosters people’s own current religious or sectarian (e.g., time, space, and knowledge—values ‘unoffensive’ for scientists and engineers) definitions of performance values on the experiential field. Organizational developers don’t need to adopt and implement another foreign program. It’s sufficient to clarify what is already in place within each person, to point out how it can serve as the basis for managing by actualizing values, and to trust and support everyone’s progress. Then this approach can serve as a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and corporate results, and has real potential for breaking through the common employee distrust of management’s motives.


The following two work practices should simultaneously optimize and sustain long-term individual and organizational progress–including productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity–in any culture and environment:

(1) The primary practice, focused on the Inner board:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the field of experience as often as one can, while:

(2) Working and keeping one’s goals for the results scoreboard ‘at the back of one’s mind’.

About practice 1:  Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the experiential field as often as one can.

Although as we grow older, most of us become preoccupied with the outer world, to win the overall game of life, we need to focus and master our play on the inner, experiential field.

I made some arguments discussing step 2 above to support this statement, but can I really prove this to anyone?  I doubt it.  Though my arguments might be convincing, certainty about the efficacy of driving progress via increasing involvement will probably come only from validating it in your own experience.  That was certainly true for me.

To try it out, view your experience as a kind of playing field where you are the only player. The object of the game is to approach peak performance by driving inner involvement–in whatever way you have defined it–as high as you can.

To do this, as you work, occasionally notice where you are in the range of performance values you defined in step 2.  Are you experiencing ‘lesser’ values, or does your process currently exemplify the values toward the center, towards what is sometimes called the ‘zone’ of peak performance?   Use the questions you wrote in step 2 to determine the level of your involvement, and the direction for improvement.

If it seems there is no restriction or limitation, no opportunity for improving our work process, you can simply enjoy things and go on.  However, it’s often easy to identify a limitation on complete involvement in the work scenario. There seem to be countless opportunities for most of us to improve the degree to which we are absorbed. As we deal with those that are obvious to us, before long it seems we are naturally presented with possible transition points that are more subtle.

If you are aware of a performance value that is low, do whatever you can to change it to a central value.  For example, if energy is a dimension that you’re measuring by a percentage value, and your estimate was 40%, do something to increase your energy level.

On the other hand, sometimes people will define dimensions in terms of ‘values’ representing feelings, such as the level of anxiety about time passing.  Then you can simply attend directly to the feeling for however long it persists.  By noticing these feelings consistently and persistently–whether  focusing only on these feelings or simultaneously continuing to work–you can eventually dissolve  the obstacle clouding  the fuller and more frequent appearance of central values in experience.

It could be helpful for motivated individuals to meet periodically (even if only around the tea/coffee pot or dining area) and discuss obstacles and insights–our experiences are often very similar and it can be helpful to share how we deal with them. Participants might also practice various ‘noticing’ exercises designed especially to break up the limitations keeping us from deepening our involvement.  Management’s support for such meetings would be influential.

About practice 2:  Work and keep one’s goals for the results scoreboard “at the back of one’s mind.”

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, this approach to Optimal Work constitutes a version of what might be called Managing by Actualizing ValuesWhen people perform at their best, their attention is primarily on qualities of their immediate experience of working, or what could be called inner performance values.  And although they naturally and periodically recall their tasks, objectives, and priorities as they work, they are not preoccupied with measuring or tallying the products and services they are producing or delivering.


In order to optimally drive progress in productivity, well-being, quality, and work capacity in any culture and environment, the primary focus should be to continuously improve inner involvement, which is defined as a measure of one or more dimensions of values that are experientially possible and measurable during a work period.  While experts in organizational development are usually preoccupied with dynamics and methods of outer or behavioral involvement, the most important, deterministic aspect of all forms of involvement is ‘inner’, or experiential–without this, behavior is meaningless and robotic.

There are many effective ways to define inner involvement.  The utility of one’s definition will clearly depend on two important factors.  First, it depends on the ‘fit’ or congruence of performance values chosen–by each individual–with the individual’s personality, goals, and religious or spiritual values and discipline.  Without a significant degree of congruence, the individual’s well-being and performance will suffer.  If the organization imposes values that conflict with those of the individuals–even if it considers those values worthwhile, innate, natural, divine, “best values,” empirically validated, or obvious–there will be conflict and overall progress will surely suffer.  Ideally, management will be willing to trust the discovery of efficacious and naturally motivating values by each individual.

For a particular individual, the transformational efficacy of a set of values also depends on the individual’s level of development. What’s good for most people may not help a peak performer, and vice versa. Therefore, the MBAV approach recognizes that each individual is, and should be, the final arbiter of which values to use for transformational or practical purposes.  In addition, this method allows an evolution in definitions of involvement when appropriate–and with the average person this does happen occasionally.

As stated earlier, a huge advantage of this is that there’s no need to convert anyone to a particular set of values, practices, beliefs, or disciplines.  It’s sufficient to clarify what is already in place within each person, to point out how it can serve as the basis for managing by actualizing values, and to trust and support everyone’s progress.  Then this approach can serve as a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and corporate results, and has real potential for breaking through the typical employee distrust of management’s motives.

In addition to congruence of performance values chosen with the individual’s personality and preferences, efficacy of each individual’s definition of involvement depends on the approximation of these same performance values with what to some people are presumed (and to other people are credible, or self-evident) essential, core, irreducible,  or ‘zone’ values of what has variously been called peak performance, self-actualization, self-realization, or enlightenment.  Managing by values is probably effective because of the focus on values instead of results, but its efficacy also depends on what values are used, and how they are used.

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) national web site used to state: “Although there is an intellectual construct called high performance work, it does not have a common definition.” However, a definition of optimal work can be drawn from common descriptions of peak experience by Maslow, Murphy and White, Csikszentmihalyi, and Tarthang Tulku, among others.  From their works and many more by other researchers and writers we can piece together a vision of the zone and use it in our measurements of involvement during work. This foundation is currently available. Shared and irreducible attributes of cross-cultural peak experience can help provide the direct experiential–not theoretical or behavioral or results-focused–basis for continuous improvement, moving us toward realizing the zone and increasing engagement/involvement whenever possible, and managing by actualizing values at the deepest levels.


Blanchard, K. (1997). Managing by values. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Grove, A. (1983). High Output Management. New York: Random House.

Maslow, A.(1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking Press.

Maslow, A. (1962). Toward a Psychology of Being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

Murphy, Michael H. and Rhea A. White (1995). In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports. New York: Penguin Books.

Conley, Chris (2007). Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow.  Audio recording of his book.   Recorded Books.

Rao, G. P. (2010).   Humanising Management: Transformation through Human Values. New Delhi:  Ane Books Pvt. Ltd.

Rao, G. P. (2009).   “Remaking Ourselves: Transformation through Human Values,” an article.

Randall, S. (2007).  Exploring the ‘Zone’ of Peak Performance. An article on pp. 171-96 of The 2007 Pfeiffer Annual: Annual. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Tulku, Chagdud. (1993).  Gates to Buddhist Practice.  Junction City, CA:  Padma Publishing.

Tulku, T. (1994).  Mastering Successful Work.  Berkeley, CA:  Dharma Publishing.

Tulku, T. (1977).  Time, Space, and Knowledge:  A New Vision of Reality.  Berkeley, CA:  Dharma Publishing, p. 93.


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