The Advantage

I am a big fan of Patrick Lencioni’s work and this is his best book yet.  The subtitle makes the point:  Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.  Organizational health is “the advantage,” the main advantage a company can have over its competitors.  Moreover, this advantage is simple, free and available to anyone who wants it.

The first step:  build a cohesive leadership team.  This includes:

  • The leadership team is small enough (three to ten people) to be effective.
  • Members of the team trust one another and can be genuinely vulnerable with each other.
  • Team members regularly engage in productive, unfiltered conflict around important issues.
  • The team leaves meetings with clear-cut, active, and specific agreements around decisions.
  • Team members hold one another accountable to commitments and behaviors.
  • Members of the leadership team are focused on team number one.  They put the collective priorities and needs of the larger organization ahead of their own departments.

Second, create clarity for the organization, by answering 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?


Third, communicate these six answers to employees.  This is done when the leadership team can affirm these statements:

  • The leadership team has clearly communicated the six aspects of clarity to all employees.
  • Team members regularly remind the people in their departments about those aspects of clarity.
  • The team leaves meetings with clear and specific agreements about what to communicate to their employees, and they cascade those messages quickly after meetings.
  • Employees are able to accurately articulate the organization’s reason for existence, values, strategic anchors, and goals.

Fourth, reinforce clarity in the company’s structure.  The company’s structure includes the following:

  • The organization has a simple way to ensure that new hires are carefully selected based on the company’s values.
  • New people are brought into the organization by thoroughly teaching them about the six elements of clarity.
  • Managers throughout the organization have a simple, consistent, and nonbureaucratic system for setting goals and reviewing progress with employees.  That system is customized around the elements of clarity.
  • Employees who don’t fit the values are managed out of the organization.  Poor performers who do fit the values are given the coaching and assistance they need to succeed.
  • Compensation and reward systems are built around the values and goals of the organization.

Finally, Lencioni has a superb chapter on meetings, in which he posits that nothing is more important to a healthy organization than meetings.  He argues that you need four meetings for the leadership team:





Daily Check-In


5-10 minutes

Weekly Staff

Adhoc Topical



45-90 minutes

2-4 hours

Quarterly Off-Site Review


1-2 days

Meetings, he says, are widely unpopular because they are done so poorly.  Yet, what’s more important than an open, engaging, candid discussion of key issues by the leaders of an organization. This should be the high point of the day.

This is one of the most helpful leadership books I’ve read.  I look forward to re-reading it.