When I began reading Lencioni’s book, sparks were flying from my high lighter and I was chanting “Yep, yep, yep!”
From the promotional material accompanying the book:
“What is organizational health? An organization is healthy when it’s whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations, strategy and culture fit together and make sense. You know you have it when you have minimal politics and confusion, high degrees of morale and productivity, and very low turnover among good employees.”
There is little to disagree with: who wouldn’t want to work with a team where there was complete trust in the team members? Who wouldn’t want an environment of inspired leadership that was committed to accountability and results. Who wouldn’t want to jettison the political BS and create a fulfilling experience for customers and employees?
But as I reached the halfway point, I started thinking about different management teams I’ve been part of and tried to imagine how some of the trust-building, accountability exercises described in the book would have gone down. Two words came to mind: Career Suicide.
Enthusiasm was replaced with cynicism. (But the emotions don’t end there. Bear with me.)
Lencioni identifies five behavioral principles that every team must embrace (think of a pyramid) at the base is Trust, moving upward next comes Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and topping the pyramid is Results.
The notion is that if all members of the team trust one another to be authentically vulnerable, needed Conflict (as a means of finding the best course of action) can occur, which is followed by complete Commitment to the decision, and then holding one another Accountable so that the team, employees and customers can enjoy the Result.
My thought is that it would be the incredibly rare publicly traded company that could execute such a strategy. (It’s one thing to acknowledge, another thing to launch but to actually execute would be remarkable – especially in the face of a challenging quarter earnings-wise).
I believe the healthy organization transformation has a better chance of success in a private company with a strong, and (using Edwin Friedman’s term) ‘non-anxious’ leader.
I think the most fertile ground for healthy organizations resides in start-ups and SMBs.
Business owners can benefit from Lencioni’s Four Disciplines of Organizations Health:
Discipline 1: Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
An organization simply cannot be healthy if the people who are chartered with running it are not behaviorally cohesive. In any kind of organization, from a corporation to a department within that corporation, from a small, entrepreneurial company to a church or a school, dysfunction at the top inevitably leads to a lack of health throughout.
Discipline 2: Create Clarity
In addition to being behaviorally cohesive, the leadership team of a healthy organization must be intellectually aligned and committed to the same answers to six simple by critical questions*. There can be no daylight between leaders around these fundamental issues.
Discipline 3: Over-communicate Clarity
Once a leadership team has established behavioral cohesion and created clarity around the answers to those questions, it must then communicate those answers to employees clearly, repeatedly, enthusiastically and repeatedly (that’s not a typo). When it comes to reinforcing clarity, there is no such thing as too much communication.
Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity
Finally, in order for an organization to remain healthy over time, its leaders must establish a few critical, non-bureaucratic systems to reinforce clarity in every process that involves people.
Be a brave leader and read this book. Be brutally honest about the interaction between you and your management team as well as the management team and their direct reports. Ask yourself when was the last time someone provided constructive criticism publicly? When was the last time you suspected passive sabotage of company initiatives?
If you are a business owner, the transformation can’t happen without your buy in, without walking the talk. Not only will you transform your business, you will transform the lives of those connected to your business.
*I am going to work through the six questions for my business and report back in a future blog article.
Disclosures: That is an Amazon affiliate link. I received a complimentary copy of the book to review.