Book Review: 'The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business' by Patrick Lencioni
January 11th, 2018
I love non-fiction books but I generally am not a huge fan of business or self-help books. I did go through a self-help book phase; my Audible account is an embarrassing library of career/entrepreneurship/"crush it" books that got me to and from work every day when I had a job I hated and a dream I had yet to fulfill. Maybe they helped, because I did end up with a pretty great dream job.
As a part of that pretty great dream job's recent promotion, I was given a bit of a reading assignment. I was given a copy of The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni and told that our company believes in the message of that book. So while I wouldn't normally read such a book anymore, I was excited to learn more about the strategies that make a great organization work, and to learn more about what is expected of me in my new role.
I have to say that the book was better than I expected. One of my major issues with self-help and business books is that they generally revolve around one to three major points and the rest is fluff in order to pad the word count and justify a $14.99 cover price. This book is divided into the four disciplines of organizational health and in a separate section covers the topic of meetings.
A company or organization must build a cohesive leadership team; one that consists of members who are willing to conflict with each other, who trust each other, and who are willing to commit beyond the boundaries of their job titles or departments to doing what is best for the company. Next, that leadership team has to clearly define multiple aspects of the company and base all of their decisions on their agreed-upon goals, culture, and business plan. Then, the team must focus on communicating these critical aspects to other members of the organization through their words and deeds.
A few quotes jumped out at me in the book as being very Buddhist in nature and made me think of the words of wise Ajahn Brahm:
People who work in those organizations tend to have a misguided idea that they cannot be frustrated or disagreeable with one another. What they are doing is confusing being nice with being kind.
At its core, accountability is about having the courage to confront someone about their deficiencies and then to stand in the moment and deal with their reaction, which may not be pleasant. It is a selfless act, one rooted in a word that I don't use lightly in a business book: love. To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies.
If you ever listen to one of Ajahn Brahm's dharma talks on love and compassion, you could very well find quotes like these sprinkled in. Ajahn Brahm has, on many occasions, pointed out the differences between someone who is outwardly nice and someone who is truly kind. As he would say, you must treat everyone with loving kindness and compassion, and holding someone accountable with loving kindness and compassion will help them learn and grow as a person and team member.
Another paragraph spoke to me on a personal level. While it speaks to a disjointed organization, I am also guilty of the same.
Most organizations I've worked with have too many top priorities to achieve the level of focus they need to succeed. Wanting to cover all their bases, they establish a long list of disparate objectives and spread their scarce time, energy, and resources across them all. The result is almost always a lot of initiatives being done in a mediocre way and a failure to accomplish what matters most. This phenomenon is best captured in that wonderful adage, "If everything is important, nothing is."
I'm constantly trying to do everything at once: excel at work, become a better programmer, learn new languages, create art, learn more about astronomy and astrophysics, read more books, watch more movies, play more video games... and the list goes on. I need to constantly remind myself to finish one thing before beginning the next. Bullet journaling is helping me slow down and track my progress on each task, and is my way of setting top priorities.
Overall, I thought the book was well-written and had a lot of great points. Most of it was common sense, or sounded like it, but it's common sense that you don't often find implemented in real life. While a lot of The Advantage felt like it was geared at higher-level management, I still felt like I got a lot of wisdom from it, both personally and professionally.