Book Review: The Advantage

The Advantage Book Cover

Patrick Lencioni has written a number of winners, I’m told, but this is the first I’ve read. I appreciate his well-structured writing replete with qualitative, anecdotal evidence.  Below is a quick review and some thoughts.

The author opens the book with a chapter on the reason behind pursuing organizational health.  His premise is that in the post industrial, information age most organizations don’t maintain competitive advantage based on “just a little cheaper/faster” or “we have the newest/best information.”  Rather, organizations that are in good health will naturally grow into excellent service (whether based on speed, quality, price) and top-notch information.

In order to maintain strong health, we need to complete these four disciplines or steps:

  1. Build a cohesive leadership team
  2. Create clarity
  3. Overcommunicate clarity
  4. Reinforce clarity

Here are a few quotes:

  • I am convinced that once organizational health is properly understood and placed into the right context, it will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage.
  • Studying spreadsheets and Gantt charts and financial statements is relatively safe and predictable, which most executives prefer. That’s how they’ve been trained, and that’s where they’re comfortable. What they usually want to avoid at all costs are subjective conversations that can easily become emotional and awkward. And organizational health is certainly fraught with the potential for subjective and awkward conversations.
  • Most “teams” are actually “working groups” – like in golf, where everyone plays by themselves, but they add their scores together.  A team is more like a basketball team – everyone works together, simultaneously, interactively, to make the end goal – the win!
  • At the heart of vulnerability lies the willingness of people to abandon their pride and their fear, to sacrifice their egos for the collective good of the team.
  • When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.
  • When leadership teams wait for consensus before taking action, they usually end up with decisions that are made too late and are mildly disagreeable to everyone.  This is a recipe for mediocrity and frustration.
  • Some people find this extreme emphasis on results to be a little cold and uninspiring.  But there is no getting around the fact that the only measure of a great team, or great organization, is is whether it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish.  Some leaders of teams that don’t regularly succeed will still insist that they have a great team because team members care about one another and no one ever leaves the team.  A more accurate description of their situation would be to say that they have a mediocre team that enjoys being together and isn’t terribly bothered by failure.
  • Organizations learn by making decisions, even bad ones. By being decisive, leaders allow themselves to get clear, immediate data from their actions.  As a result they are often able to change course and defeat the indecisive competitors.

Here are some prayers I drafted based on things in the book that touched me:

Team

  • Lord, make us a team that’s vulnerable with each other. Lord, please show us where we are acting like individual golfers instead of a basketball team.  And teach us how to be on a team. Lord, please teach us to appreciate those things in others that are different.  Lord, please teach us how to be “collectively responsible,” that is, that everyone celebrates the win and mourns the loss while working to restore it.  Lord, please teach us to be accountable to each other, to be submissive to what you’re doing.

Clarity

  • Lord, give us clarity. Why do we exist? How do we behave? What do we do? How will we succeed? What is most important, right now? Who must do what? What’s our thematic goal? What’s our rallying cry?

Over-communicate Clarity

  • Lord, please gently remind us to communicate like Jesus did.  We serve the God of communication who used every means imaginable to communicate His loving plan to us.

Reinforce Clarity

  • Please help us find more people that you want on this team.  Please help us train people in your ways. Please help us coach and encourage everyone on the team.
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