GMLA – The Advantage
The Advantage – Book Paper #2
The Advantage is a book by Patrick Lencioni, in which the author claims the number one advantage a company can have in today’s modern business environment is organizational health. The author claims that organizational health is the one thing most companies ignore as they feel it’s beneath them. The author makes the claims that organizational health will give a better advantage over many of the traditional business focuses such as innovation, speed, intelligence, marketing and so on. While I agree with the author on the fact that organizational health is key to being successful, I don’t agree with his delivery. In this paper I will outline the authors keys points for creating organizational health.
The author breaks down organizational health into four parts: Build a cohesive team, Create Clarity, Over communicate Clarity, and Reinforce Clarity. Each of the parts is broken down into sub categories for achieving what the author calls complete organizational health.
The first of the four parts is, Build a cohesive team. This section of the book is broken down into five behaviors and that is mixed in with six core suggestions for achieving those behaviors. The five behaviors consist of: Building trust, Mastering conflict, Achieving Commitment, Embracing Accountability, and Focusing on results. The author continues with suggestions for achieving the said behaviors. The suggestions consist of: Building a small team, Creating trust among team members, Engaging in healthy conflict, Accountability among team members, Leave meetings with a clear decisions and goals, and Have collective priorities. The author goes on to provide examples of each and dives into each of the behaviors. One of the things that stuck out was the authors emphasis on having a small team of 3-12 people. The author doesn’t elaborate on how companies of different sizes are to achieve a core team until later in the book. It sticks out to me that creating the executive team first and foremost is the key to creating the organizational health he speaks about. The author builds upon this first part of the book and goes deeper into why you need to have the cohesive team to have the foundation to build the rest of his theory.
The second part of the book is based on creating clarity within the organization. This is the longest part of the book and starts to get into the six questions the author says is the core of organizational health. The author states that each company must ask themselves these six questions and have the answers to move on to the next part of his theory. The six questions are: Why do we exist? How do we behave? What do we do? How will we succeed? What is most important, right now?, and Who must do what? Each of the six questions are elaborated on within this section of the book, and asks more questions to the reader to help them answer the six core questions. Confusing right? Not exactly. Sometimes answering a question with a question is the key to diving deeper into your company and your values. The first question asks, Why do we exist? The author goes on to ask us to be honest with ourselves as a company and dig into why we truly exist. The author provides multiple examples, ranging from being a customer centric company to a profit focused company. He talks about the pitfalls of saying one thing but acting a different way, and how this type of confusion hurts overall organizational health, and leads to employees not buying in. The second question asks, How do we behave? This section of the book has to do with core, aspirational, accidental, and permission to play values. The author talks about how most companies have aspirational values confused with core values. For me this pitfall of categorizing values wrong was the most important take away. Knowing what you are versus what you want to be is key to creating the proper values for the company. It has to do with being completely honest with yourself. The third questions ask, What do we do? This is the easiest part of the section as it’s the most basic. In terms of Sonic Automotive, we sell and service automobiles. The author stresses upon keeping this very clear and simple and not to dress it up with fancy adjectives. The fourth question asks, How will we succeed? The author goes into various exercises of how to establish anchors and dive into the core of the business. He suggests two ways of achieving this. The first is just a list of everything the company does. The second is an amoeba type exercise which you essentially list everything your company does, but in no particular order. The author is trying to get us to build the basis for what a company culture is by asking the questions “How will we make decisions in a purposefully, intentional, and unique way that’s allows us to maximize out success and differentiate us from out competitors?” These questions are the core of the section. The fifth question asks, What is most important? This section asks the company to define a single priority. This is achieved though setting thematic goals, defining objectives, and creating a set of operating objectives to achieve the goals. This was illustrated over multiple pages with examples of how the draw it out. This lays out of the foundation for the sixth and final question, Who must do what? Building upon the previous questions, this section defines who is responsible for what and making sure the right person within the company is over seeing the correct part of the model. This is the most comprehensive part of the organizational health model presented by the author, and really lays the frame work for the theory. The second half of the organizational health theory focuses on communication and reinforcement.
The third part of the book focuses on overcommunicating clarity. Everything that we just defined in the section above, must be communicated down the leadership pipeline in a clean and concise manner. The author claims that everything must be repeated seven times for employees to buy into it. Consistent messages about our goals and values of the company need to be repeated over and over again. The author talks about employees being weary of messages coming down from the top which are never acted upon and therefore not believed. The author talks about now that after every meeting everyone involved must leave with an agreement on who does what. I agree that this is something overlooked in most meetings. We will talk about great ideas and initiatives but then leave out the part regarding who is going to carry out what part of it. Recognizing you have achieved clear communication is having the employees articulate back the reasons for our goals.
The forth and final section of the book talks about reinforcing clarity. This last section builds on the communication part and focuses more on the doing part of building organizational health. The section talks about how a company needs to hire based on its values, and create an orientation based around it. The section also talks about managing out employees who don’t fit the culture and creating a rewards and compensations system for those that do. This part of the book resonate with me. Sometimes a company can focus too much on low turnover instead of what needs to be done to continue to build our culture.
In conclusion, this book is about defining and building an operational culture that is clear and consistent. While I don’t agree with the condescending delivery the author uses in the book to get his ideas across, I do agree with the theories he lays out. The author is right, organizational health is the biggest opportunity for the modern-day company to gain an advantage.