The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business

Anything Patrick Lencioni writes, I’m going to read. His latest book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (kindle version) was no different. While not a fable like his other books, this one might be his best one.

Lencioni tackles the topic of organizational health, which has huge implications for churches as well. He lays out 4 disciplines of healthy organizations: Build a cohesive leadership team, Create clarity, Over-communicate clarity, and Reinforce clarity.

Here’s a little description of each one:

Build a cohesive leadership team

An organization simply cannot be healthy if the people who are chartered with running it are not behaviorally cohesive in five fundamental ways. In any kind of organization, from a corporation to a department within that corporation, from a small, entrepreneurial company to a church or a school, dysfunction and lack of cohesion at the top inevitably lead to a lack of health throughout.

Create clarity

In addition to being behaviorally cohesive, the leadership team of a healthy organization must be intellectually aligned and committed to the same answers to six simple but critical questions. There can be no daylight between leaders around these fundamental issues.

Over-communicate clarity

Once a leadership team has established behavioral cohesion and created clarity around the answers to those questions, it must then communicate those answers to employees clearly, repeatedly, enthusiastically, and repeatedly (that’s not a typo). When it comes to reinforcing clarity, there is no such thing as too much communication.

Reinforce clarity

In order for an organization to remain healthy over time, its leaders must establish a few critical, non bureaucratic systems to reinforce clarity in every process that involves people. Every policy, every program, every activity should be designed to remind employees what is really most important.

Pretty simple, but something very few organizations achieve.

Here are a few things that jumped out in reading the book:

  • The health of an organization provides the context for strategy, finance, marketing, technology, and everything else that happens within it, which is why it is the single greatest factor determining an organization’s success. More than talent. More than knowledge. More than innovation.
  • Any organization that really wants to maximize its success must come to embody two basic qualities: it must be smart, and it must be healthy.
  • The vast majority of organizations today have more than enough intelligence, expertise, and knowledge to be successful. What they lack is organizational health.
  • The seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones has little, if anything, to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with how healthy they are.
  • A good way to look at organizational health – and one that executives seem to respond to readily – is to see it as the multiplier of intelligence.
  • If people don’t weight in, they can’t buy in.
  • Too many leaders seem to have a greater affinity for and loyalty to the department they lead rather than the team they’re a member of and the organization they are supposed to be collectively serving.
  • There is no getting around the fact that the only measure of a great team – or a great organization – is whether it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish.
  • Within the context of making an organization healthy, alignment is about creating so much clarity that there is a little room as possible for confusion, disorder and infighting to set in.
  • Organizations learn by making decisions, even bad ones. By being decisive, leaders allow themselves to get clear, immediate data from their actions.
  • Successful, enduring organizations understand the fundamental reason they were founded and why they exist, and they stay true to that reason.
  • Every organization, if it wants to create a sense of alignment and focus, must have a single top priority within a given period of time.
  • Employees won’t believe what leaders are communicating to them until they’ve heard it seven times.
  • People are skeptical about what they’re being told unless they hear it consistently over time.
  • Great leaders see themselves as Chief Reminding Officer as much as anything else. Their top two priorities are to set the direction of the organization and then to ensure that people are reminded of it on a regular basis.
  • Messaging is not so much an intellectual process as an emotional one.
  • Bringing the right people into an organization, and keeping the wrong ones out, is as important as any activity that a leadership team must oversee.
  • When leaders fail to tell employees that they’re doing a great job, they might as well be taking money out of their pockets and throwing it into a fire, because they are wasting opportunities to give people the recognition they crave more than anything else.

Overall, this was one of the more helpful books I’ve, easily the best I’ve read on organizational health. Definitely one worth picking up if you are a leader.

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  1. Pingback: My 12 Favorite Books of 2012 | My World

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