The realization of the importance of organizational health is coming, and Patrick Lencioni’s new book, The Advantage is leading the way. Lencioni is one of my favorite writers, his ability to weave together a story/parable that connects and then lay out principles that transform is always a winning recipe.
Just one thing with The Advantage, no parable, just an incredible combination of teaching in all his books to lay not only why organizational health trumps everything else in business (and other organizations too), but even more how to build such organizational health in your organization. Yes, there are incredible stories of how these principles have worked in his organizational life as well as those he has consulted (with names changed of course to protect both the guilty and the innocent). It’s a great advantage of the book — not just a great story in theory, but great stories gathered together from actual life experiences.
The opening line of chapter 1 captures the premise of the book, “The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to everyone who wants it.”
In pursuing such organizational health, Lencioni works through a 4 disciplines model
DISCIPLINE 1. Build a cohesive leadership team.
As Patrick says, “Teamwork is not a virtue, it’s a choice.” He defines a leadership team as “a small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving a common objective for their organization.”
Moving building from theory to practice builds on 5 behaviors: Trust, Mastering Conflict, Achieving Commitment, Embracing Accountability, and Focusing on Results.
I remember these from The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, especially his charge to “step into the conflict” and how much better organizational health became as I learned to step into the conflict and leverage it towards resolution.
DISCIPLINE 2. Create clarity.
This is my favorite chapter of the book as the not only asks but fleshes out 6 critical questions. Why are they critical? As Patrick writes, “What is new is the realization that none of them can be addressed in isolation; they must be answered together. Failing to achieve alignment around any one of them can prevent an organization from attaining the level of clarity necessary to become healthy.”
What are the 6 critical questions? So glad you asked …
1) Why do we exist? Think core purpose as in Jim Collins, Built to Last
2) How do we behave? Core values that are not the generic one size fits all, but the one size that fits us as in the start up company that identified “willing to sweep floors” as one of its core values. Answers to this question also addressed aspirational, accidental and permission-to-play values.
3) What do we do?This should be the easiest to answer, and should be clear and straight forward.
4) How will we succeed? Strategy is involved here, but Lencioni goes deeper speaking of “Strategic Anchors” (3 strategies that provide the context for all decision making).
5) What is most important right now? Answering this one has the most immediate impact. What is the thematic goal? What is the rallying cry that defines the next 3-6 months of focus?
6) Who must do what?Clarity for division of labor and the advantage of teams that bring multiple perspectives to accomplish the thematic goal.
The challenge I have learned in leadership is to get everyone on the same page. A cohesive team that hammers out their answers to these 6 questions is on the same page, working out of the same playbook.
DISCIPLINE 3. Overcommunicate clarity.
When I first saw this, I thought that’s a bit repetitive. Exactly. 7 times to be exact. Patrick emphasizes that this is necessary to pass on the clarity, the answers to the 6 questions, the playbook to the organization.
The value I discovered in this chapter is a commitment for “the team to leave meetings with clear and specific agreements about what to communicate to their employees.”
DISCIPLINE 4. Reinforce clarity.
Same as discipline 3, I thought this seems repetitive. Reading the chapter I realized this needs to be repeated from new hires to those who needed to be fired, from recognition, compensation and reward. Clarity, the playbook, the 6 questions, the cohesive commitment builds organizational health.
After laying out the case for the 4 disciplines, Patrick moves on to the advantage of great meetings. Having applied the truths of Death by Meeting to my own leadership team meetings, they do produce greater organizational health and engagement. It’s my next step with this book to hammer out our answers to the 6 questions, to build our own playbook.
We have learned to focus our meetings and have found them to provide greater productivity.
The greatest challenge that I picked up from the book is when Patrick writes, “the single biggest factor determining whether an organization is going to get healthier — or not — is the genuine commitment and active involvement of the person in charge.”
That’s why I give The Advantage 5 out of 5 stars. It left me not only wanting to be a better leader of a great organization, but laid out practical principles for making that happen.
Want to find out more about The Advantage? Go here to check out great resources to go deeper in The Advantage.