Like The Five Temptations of the CEO, Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive is a leadership fable. The key lessons are summarized in the end of the book along with directions for self-assessment.
Mr. Lencioni tells us, 'If everthing is important, then nothing is.' He expands on that point by saying, 'The key to managing this challenge, of course, is to identify a reasonable number of issues that will have the greatest possible impact on the success of your organization and then spend most of your time thinking about, talking about, and working on those issues.'
What, then, are these issues? Mr. Lencioni feels that they mostly fall into making the organization smarter and healthier. He points out that most leaders focus on the 'smarter' part, and generally ignore the 'healthier' subject. He also asserts that the 'healthier' issues are more important than the 'smarter' ones. He defines a healthy organization as one that eliminates politics and confusion. You can tell if this has been accomplished by watching to see if morale rises, employee turnover drops, and productivity growth accelerates.
The key obsessions are:
1. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team
2. Create organizational clarity
3. Over communicate organizational clarity
4. Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems.
The book details the key elements of each obsession. The fable contains all of the key elements in the story.
The fable is built around two competitive companies in the technology consulting business from the perspective of their CEOs. These men started their companies at around the same time after graduating from the same school. The more successful one obsesses on the four principles while the less successful one uses traditional focus areas. The tale builds when the more successful one makes a hiring mistake, and that mistake starts to undermine the organizational health of the company. In reading this book, you get the viewpoints of the CEO who doesn't get it, the new hire who doesn't get it, and the team members who do get it. These multiple perspectives make it easier to understand the lessons, and give texture to the discussion in the summary.
I thought the book was quite successful in its focus, but whether these will be the key areas for all companies or not is less clear to me. The faster growing your business is and the greater the service component, the more relevant these lessons will be. You will have to decide for yourself whether you should focus primarily on these areas or not if you are CEO.
My own experience is that a company should develop a perspective that encompasses a mission, vision, values, direction, strategy, tactics, and stakeholder commitments that are easy for everyone to grasp, are mutually supportive and consistent, are very motivating internally and externally, are easy to understand and explain, and create competitive advantages. I agree that most companies are beset with the communications stall, which is what this book addresses well.
After you finish this book, I suggest you think about where you have a muddled understanding of what others are thinking, or they may be muddled about understanding your thinking. Then, decide how you can reduce those miscommunications in simple, effective ways.