Sometimes my year in review is a summary of my year's book reviews. Last year it was a looking forward piece about books I planned to read (and I'm happy to say I enjoyed and gained value from them all). This year it is a "top picks" offering, with the Organizational Health theme coming from a chance meeting this Fall. 

Organizational Health

I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Lencioni at a Santa Clara University event. Lencioni is the author of over ten best-selling business books focused on organizational health, leadership, and teams. He is also an outstanding speaker and kind enough to be the closing guest in my Executive MBA class. Even more exciting for me, however, is that he and his colleagues at The Table Group see organizations and leadership as requiring integrity -- integrity across features of organizational design aligned towards clear and valuable strategic goals. This perspective is very similar to what I try and share here.

The Advantage

In his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, Lencioni says:

An organization has integrity—is healthy—when it is whole, consistent, and complete, that is, when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense.

Plugged-In Management

I take a bit longer to get to a similar point when talking about plugged-in management:

Plugged-in management is the ability to weave together the technology tools of our work (everything from email to the size and type of tools a crew would use to build a fence), the way we organize our work (for example, teams spread all over the world, the size of fence-building crew, formal and informal leadership, hiring and pay plans), and the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the people we’re working with. You typically can’t just make a change to one of those three dimensions without making an adjustment to the others as well.

No Silver Bullet 

The common thread is that you can't focus on just one thing. In Lencioni's version, organizations need to both be smart (e.g., have solid fundamentals: strategy, marketing, finance, technology) and healthy. Healthy organizations have minimal politics, confusion, and turnover, and high morale and productivity. There is clarity (alignment) about what is important. Lencioni notes:

What leaders must do to give employees the clarity they need is agree on the answers to six simple but critical questions and thereby eliminate even small discrepancies in their thinking. None of these questions is novel per se. What is new is the realization that none of them can be addressed in isolation; they must be answered together. Failing to achieve alignment around any one of them can prevent an organization from attaining the level of clarity necessary to become healthy. These are the six questions:
  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?

There is no silver bullet solution to organization success. The organization's design must support the strategy and everyone within the organization must understand the underlying connections. The Advantage provides examples of organizations that get this, and those that don't. The book and the resources available on The Table Group's website provide clear advice and support on how to take the steps needed to be healthy within your own organization.

An Amazing Example

During Lencioni's discussion with my Executive MBA students, he used Alan Mulally's turnaround efforts at Ford Motor Company as a great example of a leader bringing an organization into alignment -- and the benefits than can result. He recommended Bryce G. Hoffman's book, American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company. I finished the book about a month ago and haven't been able to stop recommending it to others. Given I had Lencioni's organizational health framework in my head, it was like I was reading a case study on the process, though I don't believe Lencioni and Mulally were acquainted at the time (they are now). 

I'm ending 2016 feeling very fortunate to have met Pat Lencioni and his colleagues. I look forward to what 2017 may bring as we think together about organizational health.

My Year in Books

And a heartfelt thank you to Amazon and Goodreads for offering their machines to automatically track my year in books. I read most of my books electronically given I need to search throughout the text and carry multiple books without it being a workout. That means I do miss seeing all the books I've read on a shelf as a reminder of the insights within, so having at least an electronic shelf is a big benefit. The other loss from reading most books electronically is that it takes an extra step to share the best ones with friends, though this can be a benefit to the authors. I end up buying one for me and sometimes multiples to share with others.

Please feel free to share your favorite business books from 2016. Click on Comment below and let us know how your suggestion has helped you and/or your organization.

Happy New Year!

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business By Patrick M. Lencioni

American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company By Bryce G. Hoffman

Business Research Themes