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The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

ISBN: 978-0-470-94152-2
240 pages
March 2012, Jossey-Bass
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business (0470941529) cover image
There is a competitive advantage out there, arguably more powerful than any other. Is it superior strategy? Faster innovation? Smarter employees? No, New York Times best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni, argues that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre ones has little to do with what they know and how smart they are and more to do with how healthy they are. In this book, Lencioni brings together his vast experience and many of the themes cultivated in his other best-selling books and delivers a first: a cohesive and comprehensive exploration of the unique advantage organizational health provides.

Simply put, an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified.  Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave. Lencioni’s first non-fiction book provides leaders with a groundbreaking, approachable model for achieving organizational health—complete with stories, tips and anecdotes from his experiences consulting to some of the nation’s leading organizations. In this age of informational ubiquity and nano-second change, it is no longer enough to build a competitive advantage based on intelligence alone. The Advantage provides a foundational construct for conducting business in a new way—one that maximizes human potential and aligns the organization around a common set of principles.

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Introduction xv

The Case for Organizational Health 1

The Four Disciplines Model 15

Discipline 1: Build a Cohesive Leadership Team 19

Discipline 2: Create Clarity 73

Discipline 3: Overcommunicate Clarity 141

Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity 153

The Centrality of Great Meetings 173

Seizing the Advantage 189

Checklist for Organizational Health 195

More Resources 199

Notes 201

Acknowledgments 203

About the Author 205

Index 207

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Patrick M. Lencioni is founder and president of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in organizational health and executive team development. As a consultant and keynote speaker, he has worked with thousands of senior executives in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 and mid-size companies to start-ups and nonprofits. Lencioni is the author of nine business books with over three million copies sold worldwide.
He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and four boys.
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Consulting executive Lencioni (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) has an answer for floundering businesses—aim for organizational health. In other words, businesses that are whole, consistent, and complete, with complementary management, operations, strategy, and culture. Today, the vast majority of organizations have more than enough intelligence, experience, and knowledge to be successful. Organizational health is neither sexy nor quantifiable, which is why more people don't take advantage. However, improved health will not only create a competitive advantage and better bottom line, it will boost morale. Lencioni covers four steps to health: build a cohesive leadership team, create clarity, overcommunicate clarity, and reinforce clarity. Through examples of his own experiences and others', he addresses the behaviors of a cohesive team, peer-to-peer accountability, office politics and bureaucracy and strategy, and how all organizations should strive to make people's lives better. This smart, pithy, and practical guide is a must-read for executives and other businesspeople who need to get their proverbial ducks back in a row. (Apr.) (Publishers Weekly, 1/16/12)
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April 04, 2012
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

THE ADVANTAGE

Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

 by bestselling author Patrick Lencioni

 

“A must-read for all business people who want to get their proverbial ducks back in a row.”

Publishers Weekly

If dysfunction is the number one reason that smart companies fail, wouldn’t mastering its opposite be the best way to outperform even your mightiest rivals?

In THE ADVANTAGE: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business (March 20, 2012; Jossey-Bass), multimillion bestselling author Patrick Lencioni argues that organizational health “will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage.”  It’s the reason why so many humble underdogs are outperforming some of today’s bigger, “sexier” companies who respond to every deepening of the downturn by investing in more innovation, talent, strategy and analysis instead of the discipline that will most impact their competitiveness.

What is organizational health? An organization is healthy when it’s whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations, strategy and culture fit together and make sense. You know you have it when you have minimal politics and confusion, high degrees of morale and productivity, and very low turnover among good employees. How do you achieve it? It’s a constant, nonlinear and messy process that Lencioni has broken down into four key disciplines:

1: Building a Cohesive Leadership Team

2: Creating Clarity

3: Over-communicating Clarity

4: Reinforcing Clarity (in every process, policy and program that involves your people)

Readers will learn how to master these disciplines by overcoming the ‘wuss’ factor, developing a true culture of peer accountability, arriving at firm commitments after a meeting, aligning an entire organization around one top priority, and much more.

Dysfunctional families and dysfunctional organizations have much in common and so do their healthy opposites. Like building a strong marriage or family, achieving organizational health is a constantly challenging process requiring a strong discipline and focus that Lencioni will explain how to maintain on an ongoing basis. Rigor is required, but Lencioni’s no-nonsense approach makes the process clear and simple.

THE ADVANTAGE is the culmination of Lencioni’s full body of work and the first time anyone has presented organizational health as a true comprehensive discipline. Never before has there been a timelier occasion to consider Lencioni’s contribution to management.

With THE ADVANTAGE, any leader can assail the dysfunction and confusion that bogs down most organizations to achieve the simplicity, cohesiveness, and strong morale that can topple even the most “sophisticated” competitors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Patrick Lencioni is a bestselling author, speaker and consultant with over two decades of experience working with CEOs and their executive teams. He is founder and president of The Table Group, a consulting firm dedicated to building healthy organizations. He is the author of many bestselling books including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which continues to be a weekly fixture on national bestseller lists; his books have sold over three million copies.  

The Wall Street Journal has named Lencioni one of the most in-demand business speakers. And he has been a keynote speaker on the same ticket with George Bush Sr., Jack Welch, Rudy Guiliani, Bill Clinton, and General Colin Powell.

Pat’s work has been featured in numerous publications such as Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Fast Company, INC Magazine, USA Today, Fortune, Drucker Foundation’ Leader to Leader, and Harvard Business Review.

As a consultant and speaker, he has worked with thousands of senior executives in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 corporations and professional sports teams to universities and nonprofits, including Southwest Airlines, Chick-fil-A, Nestle, AT&T, Northwestern Mutual, General Mills, SAP, Willow Creek, and the US Military Academy at West Point.

Prior to founding The Table Group, Pat worked at Bain & Company, Oracle Corporation, and Sybase, where he was vice president of organizational development. He also served on the National Board of Directors for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America from 2000-2003.

He lives near San Francisco.  More at www.patricklencioni.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK

THE ADVANTAGE: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

By Patrick Lencioni

Jossey-Bass

Publication date: March 20, 2012

Price: $27.95; 256 pages; hardcover; ISBN: 978-0-470-94152-2

 

What’s the difference between smart companies and healthy companies?

SMART                                  HEALTHY

Strategy                                   Minimal Politics

Marketing                                Minimal Confusion

Finance                                    High morale

Technology                             High productivity

                                               Low turnover

 

The Four Disciplines of Organizational Health

An organization doesn’t become healthy in a linear, tidy fashion.  Like building a strong marriage or family, it’s a messy process that involves doing a few things at once, and it must be maintained on an ongoing basis in order to be preserved with these four disciplines.

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 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 at the top inevitably leads to a lack of health throughout. 

Discipline 2: 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. 

Discipline 3: 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. 

Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity

Finally, 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. 

 

A Conversation with Patrick Lencioni, author of THE ADVANTAGE

 What is organizational health?

 An organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified. Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave.

How do you achieve organizational health?

By building a cohesive leadership team, establishing real clarity among those leaders, communicating that clarity to everyone within the organization, and putting in place just enough structure to reinforce that clarity going forward.

What are some examples of particularly healthy companies?

The best examples of healthy companies are not famous ones. They are small or medium sized organizations being led by humble leaders who are accomplishing great things quietly, to the delight of customers and employees alike. However, when it comes to large, well-known organizations, I'd cite Southwest Airlines as a particularly healthy one. I've had the opportunity to work with Southwest's executive team, and they embody health in just about everything they do, from the executive suite on down. Another healthy organization I know is Chick-fil-A, a quick-service restaurant chain headquartered in Atlanta. Both of these companies have lines of employees wanting to work there, loyal customers, and extremely humble leaders who know why they are there and what the organization is all about.

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 an 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.

 

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