Book Club – The Advantage

Welcome to the first post of the year in the ongoing HMA Book Club series.  We haven’t had an entry in a while – lots of other great stuff on our blog, but we just haven’t had time for a book discussion.  So we might as well start fresh in January, right?
My friend Steve McKee was in town a few weeks ago.  As an author and a business owner, he’s always a great resource for me for business book recommendations.  So based solely on his recommendation, I read The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni.  You may have heard of Lencioni, he is also the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting.
We took the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, so I used some of that time to sit comfortably on my couch with a cup of coffee and a highlighter to read the book.
The basic purpose of the book is to assist businesses with achieving organizational health, which according to the author, is the single greatest advantage any company can have.  He believes that in today’s business climate, there are many businesses that are good at what they do, but leadership, in many cases, ignores the health of the organization, which is the single greatest factor in determining an organization’s success.
There are three basic biases that leaders need to overcome in order to begin the road to organizational health:

  • Sophistication Bias – Because it is so simple and accessible, leaders sometimes have a hard time seeing it as a real opportunity.
  • Adrenaline Bias – It takes time to be a healthy organization.  Many leaders don’t take the time to slow down and deal with critical issues.
  • Quantification Bias – It’s hard to quantify “healthy.”  It is one of those things you know intuitively, not necessary something you put on a chart or graph.

Organizational health is about integrity.  An organization has integrity when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations, strategy and culture fit together and make sense.  How do you know?  Look for signs such as minimal corporate politics, high degrees of morale and productivity and very low turnover among good employees.
People within healthy organizations learn from one another, identify critical issues and recover quickly from mistakes.
The book has some great examples and discussions on how to strive for and achieve health in your organization.   Lencioni admits it takes time and isn’t always easy, but believes there are four basic disciplines that must guide the effort:

  1. Build a cohesive leadership team:  an organization cannot be healthy if the people tasked with leading it do not behave in a cohesive fashion.
  2. Create clarity:  the leadership team must be intellectually aligned and committed to the same fundamental issues.
  3. Overcommunicate clarity: once the leadership is aligned, it must repeatedly and enthusiastically discuss these issues with their team.
  4. Reinforce clarity:  in order to remain healthy, an organization needs to have a few non-bureaucratic systems in place that reinforces the commitment.

There were a few things that resonated for me with the book. It really was a perfect year-end/first-of-the year book to read.  As business owners, we spend a lot of time in December reviewing the past year, looking at what was right, what needs improvement, what we can do away with in the coming year.  And of course, we make plans for what the year ahead should look like, what we’d like to accomplish.
So to read a book like this that speaks  directly to that kind of thinking and how to go about putting some things in place couldn’t have come at a better time.
Lencioni places the responsibility for achieving organizational health firmly on the shoulders of those in charge – whether that is the business owner, partners or team leaders.  These individuals must be committed to making it happen and only then will the rest of the organization be able to be committed as well.
And finally, that organizational health not only impacts the team inside of the office’s four walls, but those outside as well.  Clients, customers, vendors, families all benefit when the team member they are connected to works within a healthy organization.
The book takes just a couple hours to read. Implementing the strategies will take considerably longer.  I think it is worth a try.

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at Jan 15, 2013

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