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Perpetual: Reads | The Advantage

Our summer series of book recommendations to empower talent and fuel brands.

Review by Duke Maines

Not as famous perhaps as his ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ work, but by far one of the best business books out there: The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything in Business.

Lencioni defines organizational health as a form of integrity—that is, when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense.  The ‘healthy’ part is measured by minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover and it only happens when leaders pay attention to these things. 

Unfortunately, there are three biases that get in the way of leaders being able to do this effectively.

  • The ‘sophistication’ bias which suggests that leaders have a tough time thinking that focusing on the (soft) areas will make a difference—after all, they are leaders because they are smart
  • The ‘adrenaline’ bias where leaders appear to be addicted by the “daily rush of activity and firefighting inside their organizations”
  • The quantification bias—suggesting that since organizational health can be difficult to measure, it must not be that important

This book is great, showing how leaders can navigate those biases and pay attention to the things that really matter in driving a healthy organization, and how this leads to sustainable advantage for the business.  There is even a nice summary of the ‘5 Dysfunctions’ work, digestible in one chapter so one doesn’t have to read that entire book. The core of it comes down to four disciplines—get your leadership team right, create (real) clarity, overcommunicate clarity, and reinforce clarity. 

One will notice the emphasis on ‘clarity’ and this cannot be overstated as it is elusive in most organizations—even at the very top.  As Lencioni notes:

“One of the most common complaints in unhealthy organizations has to do with breakdowns in communication across departments and divisions. And as much as leaders might want to implement special communication programs to alleviate this, the one good way to address it is to attach the root cause: unresolved issues among the leaders of those divisions.  The most well-intentioned, well-designed departmental communication programs will not tear down silos unless the people who created those silos want them torn down.”

The real agenda, and the hidden agenda that gets in its way. 

In many ways, this book underscores the importance of purpose and strategic intent. Get that right and hire great people and they will figure it out WITHOUT micromanagers watching every move.  The beauty of that is these kinds of teams are truly agile, adapting quickly to changes in the environment.

It’s worth noting the book recaps another of Lencioni’s great works—the importance of getting meetings right.  Meetings, despised as they are, represent the social fabric of an organization and getting them right is a sign of a healthy organization. 

Take a peek into ‘The Advantage’ and gain the clarity you need to deliver a healthy organization.

I give this book five out of 5 stars because I only review the best books.

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