My favorite part of every Patrick Lencioni book is the last section. Lencioni is known for his business fables such as Death by Meeting and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Each of these tells a fictional story of a business facing nonfictional problems. While Lencioni is a gifted storyteller, I’m not the biggest fan of the fable as a medium for conveying organizational truth. I was intrigued to hear that Lencioni had left the realm of fiction for his latest book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. It took me awhile to get to the 2012 Business Book of the Year, but once I did I was delighted by what I read.
By way of a summary, Lenicioni’s thesis is that organizational health ought to be the goal leaders focus on, not dramatic transformations, game-changing innovations or the like. This isn’t a book about how to turn the ship around, it’s about charting the proper course ahead of time and making sure the ship’s crew is discipline. The Advantage does this by arguing that managers need to focus on four disciplines themselves:
- Build a Cohesive Team: achieve commitment, build truth, master conflict and focus on results.
- Create Clarity: align the team or organization around a clear cause
- Overcommunicate Clarity: repeat that cause often in the service of inspiration.
- Reinforce Clarity: build a system that keeps the cause top of mind.
Even reading this brief summary it’s clear: clarity is the key to organizational health. After presenting these disciplines, Lencioni takes a brief pause to discuss one of his more popular topics: meetings. That pause is essentially a restatement of the ideas in Death by Meeting.
To be fair, there isn’t much new in The Advantage if you’re a long-time Lencioni fan. Much of what he discusses in the book has been discussed in his prior fables. However, what is new is that Lencioni applies his storytelling skills to real-world examples, and in so doing The Advantage adds much more gravitas to his prior work.