A Grudging Endorsement of The Advantage

Photo by Alexandr Bormotin on Unsplash

I’m not one for business books. They are, as a rule, reductive, shallow, formulaic, and hokey. So imagine my surprise when I came to Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business and found that it was…nah, not what you’re thinking. Let’s just say that it didn’t stir my skeptical heart. It must be very hard to escape the gravitational pull of business book expectations.

But let me give The Advantage its due. If you are someone, like me, who finds it difficult to think systemically, you couldn’t find a more dead simple instruction manual than this book. I suppose that’s good for a book that hammers away at ‘clarity’ as the key to organizational health. How do I know that’s the case? Here are the 4 Disciplines for achieving health. See if you can spot the word ‘clarity.’

  • Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
  • Create Clarity
  • Overcommunicate Clarity
  • Reinforce Clarity

Did you see it?

Fortunately there’s more to clarity than slogans. In Lencioni’s method, clarity is the result of behaviors that build a strong team around the central identity of the organization. He has no patience for mission statements but he does offer 6 critical questions that should be helpful to every organization.

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is most important, right now?
  6. Who must do what?

Even fuzzy idealists like me find it helpful to think in these terms. Every organization I’ve been part of, and certainly the church, would be helped by asking and answering these questions regularly and keeping them at the forefront of their work. 

Other helpful parts of this book: a section on the importance of conflict and how to foster good tension, guidance on developing a playbook that keeps the essential information in front of everyone, aligning human resources with the mission of the organization, and a great little appendix on meetings that I will use.

So yes, here’s my grudging acknowledgement from across the room that The Advantage has some good things to say. Take it in. Put it into practice. Then go find some Marilynne Robinson to wash it down with.

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