Healthy Organizations are Hard to Create and Sustain

In a much anticipated (for me anyway) webinar from Harvard Business Review, author and consultant Patrick Lencioni talked about some principles from his new book – The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.

During the one-hour webinar, like in other talks I’ve heard from Lencioni, there was an amazing amount of very succinct and solid wisdom being flung around. I took some good notes and wanted to share some of these concepts and see if you agree.

NOTE: These are my paraphrases of what I heard today. Note the distinct lack of quoting here.

  1. Most CEOs know how to create and run smart (strategy, Marketing, Finance & Technology) companies, but struggle in creating healthy (minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover) companies. He clarified that it wasn’t for a lack of desire; in fact, just the opposite, but simply a lack of “know-how.”
  2. Another interesting, but fairly obvious observation for anyone who’s worked in a corporate environment, is that those healthy attributes are fairly hard to measure and such, are hard to know how to implement and/or tweak. Nonetheless, have both smarts and health are key differentiators between good and great companies.
  3. Once a CEO is committed to implementing health, she must get the top three levels of the organization on board in order to ensure successful transformation.
  4. Mr. Lencioni laid out four key elements to ensure success and I put them in an equation: Organizational Health = (Cohesive leadership + clarity) + over-communication + reinforce clarity. For those non-math people out there, the first two must be done in parallel and before the third and fourth are addressed.
  5. He also tied in another great book – 5 Dysfunctions of a Team – since these changes involved not individual, but team commitments. One of the true nuggets from that book is that the first key to success is true, vulnerable trust. From there, healthy conflict/debate/discussion can take place, which leads to commitment, accountability and then results. Without real trust, results will be underwhelming to say the least.
  6. Finally, he talked about the need to have organizational values – a few, unwavering ideals that don’t change and are known throughout the organization. Upon these pillars, everything else is built – from guiding principles to strategic guidelines to tactical decisions. These few values, if upheld in action, are never punishable.

Even thought I’m a company of one, I hope one day to grow and these principles are probably easier to implement with a few than with many. There was much more in the 60 minutes that I heard as I sat at my computer listening, but these are some of the ones that resonated with me and I’m able to recall hours afterwards.

Creating a winning (healthy) corporate culture is hard and takes a humble and seasoned leader to lead the charge. In the same vein, it takes a willing follower to take up the mantle of responsibility and be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

I’d love your thoughts – especially if you participated in today’s webinar. What stood out to you? What one or two concepts are you going to internalize this week to turn the corner on a healthy organization?

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