Anyone who has any interest in Management books has read or heard of Patrick Lencioni. He writes in a style that is very accessible with lots of anecdotes and stories to help make the point.
This book is no different and is very readable.
As he will state himself, most of it is actually just uncommon common sense.
There was definitely a lot to take out of it given I have just recently joined a growing charity in a Senior Management position. The only problem however, is that much of what he prescribes requires an outside person to really do. For example, he talks about being Vulnerable and suggest that senior managers sit round and talk about one anothers childhood as a starting point.
I am not sure how well a suggestion like that would go down in my organisation, which is a charity and where we actually know each other quite well, let alone in an organisation where you have only ever been work-colleagues and it's a more 'aggressive' culture.
But if you are in senior management then you will definitely get some good ideas - some of which you may well be able to implement without outside intervention. Whatever it is, this will make you think or re-think the accepted norms of management. And that can only be a good thing.
I was won over by this book. Lencioni reminds me of Marshall Goldsmith ('What Got You Here Won't Get You There' etc.): he offers a great deal of sound, straightforward advice about how to operate successfully within organisations, much of which is in fact based on very insightful observations, based on a lifetime in consultancy, of the way in which people in organisations actually behave and, more importantly, interact.
The book's first chapter is a bit of a hard sell. No shame in that. Lencioni sets out to sell us the idea that organisational health is the most important thing in business - no, I mean THE most important thing. Really, really the most important thing. Did you know that organisational health will give your business a competitive advantage? I mean a really HUGE competitive advantage? That organisational health trumps everything else in business?
You get the point (you really do!) - the chapter reads like one of those maddeningly successful direct marketing mailshots that has you running up a mental white flag by page three and agreeing that, on reflection, your life has indeed been blighted by the absence of whatever they are selling and that you absolutely must ACT NOW to remedy the situation. But Lencioni soon begins to spell out what a healthy organisation would look like and to set out his action plan for improving the health of any organisation, and I began to be won over.
Many books about organisational behaviour offer a brilliant analysis of what is wrong with the organisation and suggest some profound changes that are needed to remedy this, but leave one wondering just how many companies will actually change their behaviour as a result, no matter how compellingly the author has spelled out the advantages. It's not that the new ideas don't make sense, or are not genuinely exciting, it's just that they often require truly fundamental changes to the way that organisations are structured and run. What Lencioni recommends, in contrast, is relatively simple, clearly understandable, and eminently do-able. I found myself recognising all too many of the aspects of unhealthy organisational behaviour but, more importantly, seeing also how Lencioni's recommended solution was sane, practical and achievable. Although Lencioni is not, on the face of it, proposing a radical overhaul of organisational structure, his programme for a healthier way of conducting business would, in fact, have quite profound effects on how organisations are run.
Lencioni starts with 'building a cohesive leadership team', and has interesting things to say about how this involves building a high degree of trust among the leadership team, which involves a greater degree of interpersonal reaction than is usually considered necessary or even desirable. Senior teams tend to relate to each other at the 'purely professional' level, representing their own departmental interests, vying with each other for the boss's attention and focussing mainly on achieving their own agenda while looking more brilliant than their colleagues. Exactly, says Lencioni. Teams like this are not learning from each other, and are certainly not working together to achieve the overall objectives of the organisation. To do this, the leadership team need to be more aware of each other's personal strengths and weaknesses, more prepared to engage in constructive criticism and debate and, as a result, to be individually a little more vulnerable than we are usually comfortable with. Lencioni successfully paints an appealing picture of the benefits of a genuinely cohesive leadership team, working together to achieve common objectives, holding other team members accountable, playing to each other's strengths and reminding each other, in an intelligent and constructive way, of their individual weaknesses.
And then, of course, the team needs to be clear on exactly what those common objectives are: we need 'clarity'. His recommendation for finding clarity is to answer six fundamental questions: Why do we [the organisation] exist? How do we behave? What do we do? How will we succeed? What is most important right now? Who must do what? It's a good and deceptively simple-looking list. The first three of those questions are actually very hard to answer, and any team that knew and fully agreed on all of the answers would indeed have a considerable advantage over the great majority of their competitors.
Lencioni illustrates his points with down-to-earth, recognisable and relevant illustrations from his consulting experience. Having argued for a cohesive leadership team and the need to achieve clarity, the last two points in his four-point action plan seem a little like over-egging the pudding: 'overcommunicate clarity' and 'reinforce clarity'. But the sections addressing these ideas continue to offer sensible, practical suggestions about how to spread a clear understanding of core objectives throughout the organisation and to ensure that the clarity persists.
I especially liked Lencini's focus on 'what is the most important thing right now'. It is difficult, but literally invaluable, for organisations to be clear on 'why we exist', 'how we behave' and 'what we do' but even with clarity on these defining ideals, organisations are often still derailed by failing to focus enough on some fundamental issue that threatens their very existence. 'The high point of being a leader in an organisation is wrestling with difficult decisions and situations,' writes Lencioni, while pointing out that, in practice, leadership teams tend to try to deal with such fundamental, life or death business issues far too superficially in a badly structured meeting that is attempting to achieve several other things at the same time.
His recommendation for a programme of meetings with different purposes and functions is, again, pragmatic and entirely sane. What, as Lencioni says, could be more exciting than addressing a core business issue in a constructive and focussed 'adhoc topical meeting' with a team of committed colleagues, and without anything else on the agenda but finding a solution to the particular business problem? And how often in business does that actually happen?
A deceptively simple and very readable book that offers achievable suggestions for changes to our working practises that would have profound effects on our effectiveness - and on the satisfaction that we get from our working lives.
Jonathan Gifford - author of '100 Great Business Leaders'
If you've read the authors previous books then you pretty well know what's coming in this one. Even tho' this is less storified than previous offerings, the examples are similar/the same and so are the principles. Is that a criticism? I guess so, but then many6 won't have read his previous offerings and so, for the newbie, this book distills anything of use and lays it out much more clearly than any of his other works. In essence a healthy company communicates openly and undertakes its tasks, the 1001 things that have to be done to be successful, with a genuine, human sense of togetherness and openness. OK, this isn't rocket science, but it is a handbook for success. I really don't think you need an external consultant as one other reviewer suggested. What you need is a CEO/Director/whoever with integrity and a willingness to push beyond day to day norms and establish new ones with his/her team. Personally, I've read his other stuff so this was a useful refresher. For a new manager, or one stuck in a rut, then this is a great investment. But success is about discussion, sometimes heated, and action ... not just about reading!
Very stateside style of writing and content. The message seems to be "get a consultant (me, me)" and does not convey what can be done inside the business without this. The truth is (and this book endorses this) the chiefs need leadership skills and emotional intelligence (for which there are better books to read (e.g. John Adair's, Daniel Goleman's) and employee engagement (again, other books out there with a more specific guiding hand). My best role model is Ricardo Semler, so I would rather put his book - "Maverick" - in the hands of senior managemement than this one.
It does carry a message that should be out there, but don't expect this single volume to provide the answers - it needs a library of reading and a mindset to change. So, by all means, read this book, but make it part of a plan and don't expect a quick fix.
I found that my experience of reading this book echoed many of the observations of previous reviewers. It may very well be simply a case of `lost in translation', whereby Lencioni's tenets and US organisational culture perspective didn't readily scan for a UK reader, but I was expecting a more holistic review of organisational health rather than a narrow focus on senior management team development and operations. Fine as it goes, fluent and easy to work through; you can get through it in a couple of hours. There were a number of points which I managed to take away from it, but overall, I found the book to be somewhat disappointing, light on detail and could have been written and presented more effectively at half the length.
This isn't the book I thought it was going to be. It's not about "organizational health" as the title says, it's about the operational health of the most senior tier management team and the actions of the CEO towards that team, with the successful key to both (according to the book) being a clear company mission statement and stated core values.
So the book is pretty much 100% about setting that mission statement and core values.
Yes, some of the observations are useful - such as how can you have friendliness in your values if the management team all routinely stab each other in the back? But it would be an extremely brave (foolish?) person that would stand-up and ask for a mission statement to be revised in light of that. The advice that all the management team should open their vulnerability to each other by discussing their childhoods is utterly bonkers for the UK public and third sector markets I work in.
I'll admit I was horrified when the author actually recommended firing high performing staff that aren't a good `cultural fit' to the values (page 170). Suggesting that the empire would fall if a single person didn't identically meet the cultural criteria. In the real world, having created your mission statement and values from this book, you'd now be firing your legal team and ICT team for starters, preferring someone who can really pitch that baseball...as opposed to having a degree in contract law.
(I'm not familiar with the author, but the book jacket blurb states he "specializes in Executive Team Development". So I'm guessing all this stuff about childhood and honesty is what he'd deliver in a closed 3-day team building session, and hasn't considered how it would fail to work as a 10 minute AOB agenda item for people already working 70 hour weeks. This would also explain why the book is so short - 200 pages of double line spacing, large font and wide spacing.)