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The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business Hardcover – March 13, 2012
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Q&A with Patrick Lencioni, Author of The Advantage
Unlike my other books, The Advantage is not written as a fable because the nature of the subject it covers is just too broad to fit into one story. In the past, I've taken on slightly more contained and limited issues--teamwork, meetings, employee engagement--but this time I'm taking a much more holistic, comprehensive approach to improving organizations. Still, I've used stories about real organizations to bring the points to life, and I'm hoping that readers enjoy those stories and find them helpful in learning and applying the principles.
Do you consider your company healthy?
Yes, I consider my company healthy. And like any healthy company, we're messy and imperfect. We argue sometimes, we make mistakes, we try things that don't work. But we know who we are, what we believe in, and what we're trying to accomplish, so we're able to recover from setbacks quickly and grow stronger through conflict and adversity. I'm glad to say that we've always believed in living the principles that we espouse. And though we can sometimes forget and feel like the cobbler's children without shoes, we have certainly worked hard to become a healthy organization, and we continue to do so every day.
Having worked with companies for so many years, is there anything that still surprises you?
Yes, I still get surprised by what I see in companies I work with, even after all these years. Some of that surprise is just a function of the fact that no two people, and thus no two organizations, are exactly alike. The nuances are interesting and keep me on my toes. But ironically, the biggest surprise I get is being reminded again and again that even the most sophisticated companies struggle with the simplest things. I guess it's hard for me to believe that the concepts I write and speak about are so universal. I don't know that I'll ever come to terms with that completely.
How can someone who's not in the upper levels of their organization make an impact on its health?
While it's true that no one can influence and organization like the leader, and that without a leader's commitment and involvement, organizational health cannot become a reality, there are many things that employees deeper in an organization can do to make health more likely. First, they have to speak truth upward in the organization. Most leaders, even the struggling ones, want to get better. They're not leading and managing in the way they really want to, even if they don't come out and say so. When an employee is courageous and wise enough to come to them with respect, kindness and honesty, most leaders will be grateful. Without honest upward feedback, a leader cannot get better. Beyond that, people deeper in an organization can focus on making their own departments healthier, and not getting too distracted or discouraged by their inability to change things outside of their "circle of influence", as Stephen Covey says. By focusing on their own departments and their own areas of influence, they provide others in the organization with an example to follow, and they put themselves in a position to be promoted and to have even greater influence.
What's something I can do tomorrow morning to get started?
The first thing anyone can do, immediately, to begin the process of making their organizations healthier, is to begin with themselves and their team. A leader has to understand and embrace the concept of being vulnerable, which inspires trust on the leadership team. That trust is the foundation for teamwork, which is one of the cornerstones of organizational health. If a leader cannot be vulnerable, cannot admit his or her mistakes, shortcomings or weaknesses, others will not be vulnerable and organizational health becomes impossible.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Pretty repetitive. Some good points but overall not very enlightening.Published 4 days ago by TerriD
Patric Lencioni is a legend in management and leadership books. I have read every book that he has written and I find this book to be the best book yet. Why? Read morePublished 6 days ago by Don Barger
Great job Lencioni.
I have always enjoyed Patrick Lencioni's business parables.
This is a compilation of much of the "fabled" wisdom that he has written in his... Read more
Great step by step manual on leadership complete with illustrative stories.Published 29 days ago by sdturley