Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Review)

the advantage book review

While I was presenting a workshop to a Vistage CEO group, one of the members mentioned this book and stated that it had transformed his company. Three other members of the group stated that the book had also helped them to do the same in their companies.

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite authors, and his latest book is another must read. The Advantage is a compilation of four of his bestselling business fables: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars and Death by Meeting. Unlike his other books, this one is not told in his customary fashion of a fable but rather as a comprehensive, practical guide on why organizational health trumps everything else in business.

In the first part of the book, he explains the difference between being “smart” and being “healthy.”

Smart organizations excel at:

  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Technology

Healthy organizations excel at:

  • Minimal Politics
  • Minimal Confusion
  • High Morale
  • High Productivity
  • Low Turnover

To help better explain this, Lencioni provides a great reference to an episode of I Love Lucy in which Lucy is looking for a lost earring in the living room. When Ricky comes in and asks if she lost her earring in the living room, she replies, “No, the bedroom. But the light is much better out here.” The analogy to business: leaders tend to look for answers where they are most comfortable, and the light for them is brighter while focusing on measurable elements in the smart list vs. the unpredictable “softer” elements in the healthy list.

To become a healthy organization, Lencioni presents the Four Disciplines Model:

1. Build a Cohesive Leadership Team

This includes the importance of the size of the leadership team (3-10) and who should and should not be on it. As explained in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, it all begins with trust, which starts with being genuinely vulnerable to one another. The team must be able to have productive, unfiltered conflict and leave meetings with clear and specific agreements. They hold each other accountable to commitments and behaviors and put the leadership team’s commitments ahead of their own departmental teams.

2. Create Clarity

The leadership team has complete clarity, agreement and is passionate about the reason the organization exists. They are clearly aligned around a strategy that helps them define success and goals to achieve that success that they all have ownership in. They understand each other’s roles, responsibilities and are comfortable questioning each other’s work.

A key component to achieving this clarity is centered on answering the following six questions:

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

When members of the leadership team rally around the answers to these questions, this will drastically increase the likelihood of creating a healthy organization.

3. Over-communicate Clarity

The leadership team always leaves meetings with complete clarity and specific agreements about what to communicate to their employees. They then clearly communicate those to the rest of the employees in the company and regularly remind their people about those aspects, so their employees are able to accurately articulate the organization’s mission, values, strategic anchors and goals.

4. Reinforce Clarity

All new hires are selected based on the company’s values and taught the six elements of clarity. All managers have a simple and consistent system for setting, reviewing goals and progress with their people. Anyone who does not fit the values of the company are managed out. Poor performers who do fit the values are provided coaching and assistance so they can succeed, and compensation and rewards are built around the values and goals of the company.

I have been reading and using Lencioni’s approach to business for over 10 years and it has helped me grow personally and professionally. I urge you to do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Advantage and apply the lessons to help give your company the healthy advantage it needs to transform your company.