Like most executives, you’re probably most comfortable crunching data trying to eke out an advantage in some area of strategy, finance, marketing, and technology. Meanwhile, the single greatest factor determining whether any of those tactics are successful, according to leadership and organization consultant Patrick Lencioni, is the health of your organization.
Which leaves him — and us — staring at a question.
In his superb new book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, Lencioni couches the question in the moment when a CEO finally answered it.
“I was attending a client’s leadership conference, sitting next to the CEO. Now, this wasn’t just any company. It was, and still is, one of the healthiest organizations I have ever known, and one of the most successful American enterprises of the past fifty years. In an industry plagued with financial woes, customer fury, and labor strife, this amazing company has a long history of growth and economic success, not to mention fanatical customer loyalty. Moreover, its employees love their jobs, their customers, and their leaders. When compared to others in the same industry, what this company has accomplished seems almost baffling.
“As I sat there at the conference listening to one presentation after another detailing the remarkable and unorthodox activities that have made this organization so healthy, I leaned over and quietly asked the CEO a semi-rhetorical question:
Q: “Why in the world don’t your competitors do any of this?”
A: “…You know, I honestly think they believe it’s beneath them.”
Lencioni’s takes pains in The Advantage to clarify exactly what he means when he talks about "organizational health."
At one point, for instance, he explains: “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.”
For a good summary of how such attributes can be achieved, check out LeadershipNow's blog on the four disciplines that are needed.