Organizational health trumps everything else

“Organizational health will one day surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage,” writes Patrick Lencioni in The Advantage. He thinks that today most organizations are reaping just a fraction of the intellectual capital available to them.

Fans of emotional intelligence in the workplace will recognize Lencioni’s assertion that organizational knowledge and insight are typically trapped under layers of dysfunction, politics, and confusion. And they’ll recognize his contention that the true costs of such conditions are wasted resources, squandered time, crappy productivity, and tenuous employee loyalty.

What is fresh is his prescription for rooting out and treating the causes of these workplace maladies. He calls his treatment plan the Four Disciplines model.

Discipline 1: Build a cohesive leadership team

Oh yeah, far easier to say than do, but true organizational health, and all of its glowing benefits, starts with leaders who are “behaviorally cohesive” in five distinct ways. Teamwork is not a virtue, it is a strategic choice to build trust, master conflict, achieve commitment, embrace accountability, and focus on results.

Discipline 2: Create clarity

Step two of the the Lencioni 4-step cleanse and rejuvenation plan is to ensure that the leadership team is aligned (“There can be no daylight between these issues”) and is practicing the same answers to six simple but essential questions:

1. Why do we exist?
2. How do we behave?
3. What do we do?
4. How will we succeed?
5. What is more important, right now?
6. Who must do what?

Discipline 3: Overcommunicate clarity

Once the leadership team is on the same page about the whys, whats, hows, and whos, the next step is to communicate the answers to these questions to all team members “clearly, repeatedly, enthusiastically, and repeatedly” (that second “repeatedly” is not a typo). Our own clients will feel a certain sense of deja-vu here when Lencioni says, “When it comes to reinforcing clarity, there is no such thing as too much communication.”

Discipline 4: Reinforce clarity

Think of this Discipline Four as a health maintenance and preventive medicine lifestyle. Leaders must create a few simple-to-use, non-bureaucratic systems that reinforce their newly articulated clarity in every process that involves people. “Every policy, every program, every activity should be designed to remind employees what is really important.”

This book is a lucid and inspiring manifesto about the benefits of clarity. Is it easier to say than do? Of course. Lencioni doesn’t shy from the fact that companies are like families, and families can be pretty messed up. But he is also resolute in his contention that just as for any family, the simplest and most effective way to untangle the morass of fear, egos, and old patterns is to start at the beginning—with building trust, addressing conflict, and making commitments. With these powerful tools it becomes much easier to own accountability and focus on results.

The Advantage
Patrick Lencioni
2012, 240 pages

Available from Amazon.
Available from Powell’s.

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