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on October 3, 2012
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
By Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni is a proven master of the business fable--a short story that provides a lesson that can be applied to the business world. His numerous bestsellers, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," "Death by Meeting," and "Silos, Politics and Turf Wars," among others, each focus on providing the reader with a lesson on a particular business topic.

In his latest book, "The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business," Lencioni pulls together the many separate themes of his previous works and weaves them into a comprehensive business theory. And despite his expertise as a storyteller, in this book he chooses not to use the business fable.

Perhaps the fable format is not extensive enough to meet his needs. Whatever the reason, the insight and strength of this book prove that he made the right choice. The result is first-rate writing that supports discerning insights about the essentials factors for business success.

The opening line in the first chapter 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."

Organizational health is readily accessible, the author argues, but most organizations choose to be smart rather than healthy. Smart may include a great marketing plan and cutting edge technology. It focuses on "tweaking the dials," in these and other areas, rather than on overall health of the organization. Studying spreadsheets and financial statements is relatively safe, Lencioni suggests, unlike the messier, unpredictable ways of establishing the health of the organization.

The healthy organization is the victim of three strong biases: The Sophistication Bias (organizations often ignore that which is simple and straightforward); The Adrenaline Bias (most leaders suffer from chronic adrenaline addiction, the stress rush of fighting fires every day); and The Quantification Bias (the difficulty of measuring it in financial terms).

Lencioni suggests there may be a fourth reason for such bias: no one has ever presented it as a simple, integrated discipline. In doing so for the first time, the author believes that it is the practice that will surpass all other disciplines in creating competitive advantage.

This foremost advantage, organizational health, is about integrity, Lencioni says. Integrity in this context is defined as an organization that is whole, consistent and complete, "when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense."

Health can be recognized by reading the signs within an organization that include, minimal politics, low confusion, strong morale, high productivity and very low turnover.

The author suggests an organization becomes healthy in much the same way as a couple builds a strong marriage or family--"it's a messy process." It involves doing several things at once.

He outlines four disciplines to do this:
* Discipline 1: Build a Cohesive Team. The leaders of any group, whether a church, school, or international corporation must build trust, master conflict, achieve commitment, embrace accountability and focus on results. "Teamwork is not a virtue," Lencioni says. "It's a choice."
* Discipline 2: Create Clarity. Six questions help to clarify, including, "why do we exist? What do we do? Who does what? "What is new is the realization that none of them can be addressed in isolation; they must be answered together," the author says. "Failing to achieve alignment around any one of them can prevent an organization from attaining the level of clarity necessary to become healthy."
* Discipline 3: Overcommunicate Clarity. Clearly, repeatedly and enthusiastically give the answers created to help clarify. There is no such thing as too much communication.
* Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity. Critical systems must be implemented to reinforce clarity in every process. Every policy and program should be designed to remind employees what is really important.

The book also contains practical structures gathered from Lencioni's previous books. For effective communications, for example, a healthy organization deals in daily check-ins, weekly tactical staff meetings, monthly strategic meetings, and offsite meetings.

The author's enthusiasm is more than compelling; it is contagious. "Is this model foolproof?" he asks about the healthy organization. "Pretty much," is the response. If leaders are aligned around a common set of answers, communicate those answers repeatedly, put effective processes into place that reinforce them--they effectively "create an environment in which success is almost impossible to prevent. Really."

That would indeed be a healthy organization.
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on October 14, 2012
I am a church planter. That means I started an organization that didn't exist and have spent the past six years trying to lead it toward fulfillment of its mission.

During this process we have seen a significant measure of success and also a significant measure of frustration. The success is solely due to God's grace. The frustration is largely due to the fact that though I know how to start a healthy organization I don't know how to keep that organization healthy as it grows and changes.

Or at least I didn't.

Until I read this book.

Lencioni argues that the key to success in any organization is organizational health. He does so persuasively. But far more importantly, he walks his readers through a process in which we can assess the health of our own organization and take steps to improve it. We have put Lencioni's questions and exercises to use and have seen noteworthy progress in each of the key areas of health Lencioni names.

I imagine this book would be helpful for any leader. But for a leader, like myself, who is not naturally gifted in creating and sustaining organizational health it was beyond helpful. It was a lifeline.

[...]
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on March 30, 2012
I first discovered Patrick Lencioni via a moving foreword that he wrote for another great business book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Since then I've read everything that Lencioni has put out and this book may very well be his best book yet. For those of you who love the parable style, be warned this book is not a parable. However, that's what makes it even better than the rest.

Lencioni is bursting with wisdom, and that means all 240 pages are overflowing with great ideas for how to run a company well. It's refreshing for him to just come right out and say it, and what he has to say is both brilliant and practical. The book teaches the four disciplines in great detail (enough that you learn just how to apply each in your organization). You can literally read the book as a group and get started making your company healthy.

The four disciplines are:

DISCIPLINE 1: 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 company, to a church or school, dysfunction and lack of cohesion at the top inevitably lead to a lack of health throughout.

DISCIPLINE 2: CREATE CLARITY
In addition to being cohesive, the leadership team of a healthy organization must be intellectually aligned and committed to the same answers to six simple but critical questions.

DISCIPLINE 3: OVERCOMMUNICATE 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 (not a typo). There is no such thing as too much communication.

DISCIPLINE 4: REINFORCE CLARITY
In order for an organization to remain healthy over time, its leaders must establish a few, critical nonbureaucratic 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.

This book is a five star business book. Give it a read. You won't be disappointed.
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After eight bestselling business fables, Patrick Lencioni has written a book in which he gathers his most important insights from them in a single volume. However, as he explains in the Introduction, "The book is the result of an unpredictable journey, one that began when I was just a kid, probably eight or nine years old." (He was born in 1962.) It draws upon but almost expands upon those books and really should be judged on its own merits, not theirs. That said, I wish to add that this is not a "best of" book, per se. Those who read it need not have read any of its predecessors, although I hope they eventually do read a few.

First, Lencioni makes a case for organizational health, not because the value of organizational health is in doubt but, rather, because it is ignored. "This is a shame because organizational health is different." It seems reasonable to me that many (most?) executives take their company's health for granted just as they take their own health for granted, at least until....

Next, Lencioni introduces "The Four Disciplines Model" and devotes a separate chapter to each discipline. With appropriate modifications, this model can be of substantial value to leaders in any company, whatever its size and nature may be. "An organization does not become [and remain] healthy in a linear, tidy fashion. Like building a strong marriage or family, it's a messy process that involves doing things at once, and it must be maintained on an ongoing basis in order to be preserved. Still, that messy process can be broken down into four simple disciplines." They are best considered within the book's narrative, in context. Suffice to say now that both a company's health and an organization's health (be it a company, school, church, etc.) requires a team effort. Moreover, in addition to being competent in what they are expected to do, members of the team must also communicate, cooperate, and collaborate effectively with each other. Lencioni recommends four specific steps to build such a team

To achieve clarity (i.e. everyone involved "being on the same page"), Lencioni recommends that "six simple but critical questions" be asked and then answered. My own opinion is that these questions should be posed frequently. Why? The best answer to that is provided by this anecdote. Years ago, a colleague of Albert Einstein's at Princeton pointed out to him that he always asked the same questions on his final examination. "Yes, that`s quite true. Each year, the answers are different."

Question #3 is "What do we do?" and reminds me of another anecdote. When Home Depot held a meeting of its store managers many years ago, one of the company's co-founders (either Bernie Marcus or Arthur Blank) reminded them that when a customer came through the door, it was not to purchase a quarter-inch drill. Rather, to purchase a quarter-inch hole.

The section entitled "The Centrality of Great Meetings" provides an explanation of how to sustain the rigor of the four disciplines, hence the health of the given organization. My own opinion is that very few meetings are "great." Most accomplish little (if anything) while wasting precious time, energy, attention, and enthusiasm. They are usually detrimental to organizational health. However, Lencioni asserts - and I agree - that there are four different types (conducted on a regular basis) that can be "great" if leaders follow the guidelines he recommends. (Please check out the material in Pages 175-187.) Of course, if an organization's leaders are inept with regard to establishing and then following the four disciplines, meetings will accomplish nothing.

For whom will this book be most valuable? It will help leaders of an organization that either needs to "get in shape" or "get in better shape" to gain or increase its competitive advantage. The key considerations include teamwork and clarity. An effective leader is imperative. If everyone is in charge, no one is. Moreover, with regard to clarity, repetition is imperative. There must be constant reminders - perhaps in the form of affirmations - of the shared vision and of what is most important to achieving it. Lencioni calls it "overcommunication."

Patrick Lencioni brilliantly explains why organizational health trumps everything else in business and, in fact, in all other domains of human initiatives. I presume to add, so does terminal illness.
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on September 16, 2012
I bought this book as a gift and ended up reading it on the plane. Lencioni puts all of the pieces together into one easy to read book - he helps you evaluate your organization and quickly see areas where you are already strong and areas where you have room for improvement. With a few statements, he helps you cut through the chaff and identify some easy to see assessments. I recommend this for anyone in a management position, especially those involved in consulting executive managers.
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on November 18, 2015
It's certainly not the worst management book I've had to read, and his writing style is fairly engaging. But I do have a warning: don't let anyone not in management get their hands on it.

I worked at an organization that mandated that all staff should read this book. There were clearly issues at the company, so I'm not sure why anyone in management thought it was a good idea to have the staff read a book full of examples of how other companies had improved when it was so clear that nothing of the sort was going to happen in our own organization. It was like having a terminal illness and watching other people get all of the treatment.

The further I got into the book the more sure I was that I really needed to quit the organization. I keep vacillating between two thoughts:

1) Management is so clueless that it doesn't understand that staff can't actually do what is recommended in this book (only management can), but they think that having us read a book about organizational health is the same as actually creating organizational health.

2) Management has already figured out what matters most, and reading this book is how they're telling us that everything we wish would change is actually how they really, really want it to stay. The book does emphasize getting rid of people who don't fit, after all.

If you run some kind of organization, I think this is a useful book. If you're an employee stuck in an unhealthy organization, reading this is an act of torture.
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on February 7, 2014
Mr. Lencioni does it again. Another great book with practical common sense advice for the executive. All we have to do is apply the concepts and be diligent and consistent with their application - which many will read this book but few will apply it. That's why it's called the Advantage.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a healthy organization.
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on October 15, 2013
Although I am a big reader, I am typically not a fan of "workplace parables," which explains why I haven't been particularly drawn to Patrick Lencioni's work in the past despite seeing his books on the bestseller lists.

When he released a non-parable book last year, The Advantage, I decided to take a peek. I ended up reading (devouring) the book quickly and about wore out a highlighter in the process!

In brief, The Advantage serves as a guide to organizational health. Right from the start, Lencioni highlights two requirements for success: an organization needs to be smart (in terms of strategy, finance, marketing, and the like) and healthy (minimal politics and confusion, high morale and productivity). Rather than providing simple "quick fixes" for organizational health that don't last, he offers a more sustainable culture shift: one underscored by strong leadership, recognized values, and defined purpose.

One of the longings I hear most often from my executive clients is their desire for clarity - an issue Lencioni has obviously experienced as well, since 3 of his 4 disciplines in The Advantage revolve around this topic. I was reminded of Cy Wakeman's statement in Reality Based Leadership: "Ambiguity is the source of all conflict." When we can clearly communicate goals, expectations, procedures and values, we reduce tension and misunderstandings and increase levels of engagement.

While profound statements - and more importantly, thought-provoking questions for organizational leaders to ask themselves - abound throughout the book, my favorite appears within Discipline 2 - Create Clarity. Here, Lencioni discusses the importance of knowing your purpose and asserts that all organizations exist to make people's lives better.

"Now that doesn't mean that all organizations make people's lives better in major, transformational ways," he writes. "And it doesn't mean they make ALL people's lives better. Nonetheless, every organization must contribute in some way to a better world for some group of people, because if it doesn't, it will, and should, go out of business."

He continues with a question all organizations should ask themselves first and frequently: "How do we contribute to a better world?"

That question alone, and the discussions that will ensue from it, make this book worth the investment, in my opinion. I also appreciate his exercises that focus on building on people's strengths to make a stronger, healthier organization.

Whether you lead a large corporation or own a small business, the takeaways from The Advantage will benefit your organizational health. And if you, like me, are not a fan of leadership parables, you'll be relieved to know that Lencioni's storytelling skills make this an enjoyable read, too!
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on September 6, 2012
The Advantage discusses improving the health of the organization. To this end, Mr. Lencioni proffers four disciplines that, if followed, will certainly improve the morale, esprit de corps and, yes, the health of the organization. Of particular interest to me was insuring the people that are brought into the organization "fit the organizational values." A lot is being written on how the organization should adapt to the individual. It would be so much better to bring a person into the organization that models the organizational values. Thanks for a thoguht provoking book.
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on October 4, 2015
I'm working in getting Into official management in an hvac company. Like a lot of what he says. Dosent feel like a book being read, feels like a seminar. His personality comes thru. Is good, he is funny.
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