Posted by: genevievetaylor | April 23, 2014

Book Review: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

The Advantage took all of us at Global Genesis by storm. Since reading it, I have since referred many clients and consultants to it, have used it or referred to it in almost every client engagement since, and am looking forward to incorporating it in my client work as I move forward.

Why? Because Patrick Lencioni (who is known best for his “business fables” in books like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) did a fabulous job of synthesizing – and really renewing  – work that has been lynch pins of organizational development for decades.  He takes great ideas from Chrys Argyris(Systems Thinking), Jim Collins(Good to Great), Stephen Covey (7 Habits) – who of course, were working from other great masters – and boils it down into simple clear directions, a cohesive framework, and practical guidance.  His framing – that organizations must be healthy to succeed – is brilliant, his defense of that idea is cogent.  He has done a service to not only his clients, but to change agents who have been looking to help others understand why things like goal -setting, teamwork, conflict, and communication make such a difference.

Specifically, he offers four disciplines that support organizational health:

Four Disciplines to Organizational Health

Four Disciplines to Organizational Health

These are of course explained in detail in his book.  They are not rocket science – but one must do them to create advantage, and that is where it can be challenging.  But he does well in making the steps appear clear, accessible, and doable.

I highly recommend this book!

 

 

Last year I was thinking hard about how to help people with the “politics” of change.  Many people see “politics” as something to be avoided.  Political Savvy – Systematic Approaches to Leadership Behind the Scenes takes a fresh and extremely rational look at the natural politics of organizations.

What I liked: Dr. DeLuca identifies 9 different “players”, ranging from the passive and cynical to the “active and ethical” players.  This book encourages people to become “active, ethical players” that choose to make a strategic difference in their organizations.  These players are savvy: they know how to identify resistance to change; and they know who can help them overcome that resistance in a way that serves the greater good.  And they assume that organizations are not inherently rational; rather, they are made up of humans that try to be rational but who also operate from a framework of emotions and interests that are uniquely individual.

Following are a couple of tips for “influencing behind the scenes” that I particularly liked:

1.  Dr. DeLuca is skeptical about decision-making in large groups.  Instead, he recommends a “Many-Few-Many-Few ” approach. 

  • MANY: Essentially – brainstorm, but don’t decide – in a large groups.  Large groups tend to be best at creativity and energy – but as many of us know, they are not good at wordsmithing, working though logistics, or weighing the whole against the enthusiasm of a crowd.
  • FEW:  So, bring the options back to a few with authority and responsability to make the change.
  • MANY: Then – and this is key – bring it back to the whole for comments, input, feedback, and clarity.
  • FEW:  Then, finalize the decision with the same, responsible few.

2.  “Never go into a decision-making meeting without knowing that 51% or more of its participants understand and are open to discussion about the proposed change.” 

  • This is a particularly critical piece of thinking here, and he even says that if it is the one thing that readers take from the book, he is happy.  Essentially – recall a time that you sat in a meeting, and you said, bursting with enthusiasm, “Hey, I think we should do this really great thing!”  And, your fantastic idea was ignored.  Perhaps there was silence, perhaps the group kept going like they hadn’t even heard it, or perhaps someone outright said “That is a terrible idea!”  And then, 15 minutes later, the same idea was offered – perhaps even by the person who said it was a terrible idea – and the group enthusiastically exclaimed, “What a fantastic idea!  Why didn’t I think of that???”  (Yes, you are usually pouting at that point.)
  •  Dr. DeLuca also noted that phenomenon, and there are a lot of probable reasons for that; perhaps an innate adversity to change inside humans, perhaps the political landscape of the moment.  But he says that the dynamic changes entirely when the politically savvy  warm the temperature of the room by introducing the idea before the meeting – to more than half the group.  It is not that everyone has to agree, but by introducing the idea, you help create conditions for a better and more productive conversation – in a way that doesn’t lead to a lost idea, wasted meeting time, or loss of face for you.

The book has been extremely helpful to me as I advise clients within organizations how to manage change, or clients who are engaged in “inter-organizational” collaborations.  The book also contains a system for mapping alliances that is extremely helpful for the champion of change.

I was so excited about his work that I reached out to see if there were a workshop for me to become better trained in his tools.  It was then that I discovered that Dr. DeLuca passed away in 2008.  May he rest in the deepest peace.

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