The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni might be the most impressionable work we’ve read and discussed in our quarterly book club at Precision.
Lencioni asserts that too many leaders limit their search for advantage to conventional and largely exhausted areas like marketing, strategy and technology. He suggests that there is an untapped gold mine sitting right beneath them. Instead of trying to become smarter, he thinks that leaders and organizations need to shift their focus to becoming healthier, allowing them to tap into the more-than-sufficient intelligence and expertise they already have.
Lencioni also emphasizes that organizational clarity separates great companies from good ones. This clarity helps us identify “what is the most important thing, right now,” or a thematic goal. Generally, these company-wide goals are set every two to three months, and everyone rallies around them to drive it to completion.
For that to happen, there must be a high level of trust and vigorous debate to ensure that teams completely “surround” issues and make the best possible decision. It shouldn’t be a democracy; the final decision rests with the group leader. But once the debate is over and a decision is made, everyone is behind it 100 percent because they had an opportunity to be heard.
And that’s been our experience at Precision. We have implemented a number of Lencioni’s strategic and tactical recommendations. In particular, we fully embraced his recommended meeting structure, which he explains more thoroughly in his earlier book Death by Meeting. The graphic below summarizes the framework:
In general, people hate meetings because they are not run properly. But meetings are where the good stuff happens when you do them right.
For example, in our tactical meetings, we used to get bogged down by diving into too much detail. As a result, these weekly meetings were marathons, causing all of us to dread them. Now they are much more efficient and effective. We identify what’s important and, instead of hashing out details, schedule a follow-up meeting that only includes pertinent personnel on the topic.
In meetings we also take a few extra minutes to document our decisions and assign action items. Then we develop the “cascading message” that is verbally shared with the rest of the organization. Doing this has been surprisingly impactful in a few ways:
- It ensures that everyone is clear about the decisions. Seeing it in writing helps people recognize when something has been misinterpreted or misunderstood, and gives us a chance to clear up any misunderstandings before sharing with the rest of the organization.
- Verbalizing the “cascading message” really helps, too. Before, we would blast out an email with a summary of decisions/actions. Though we still write it down, every department head reviews with his or her group verbally. This makes it much more personal and engaging for the staff.
- Every action item is assigned a champion that is responsible to see the action to completion. This helps us hold each other accountable.
Circling back to Lencioni’s point about leaders having an untapped gold mine sitting right beneath them, after reading and discussing the book we decided to take the Myers-Briggs type Indicator (MBTI) test to gain a better understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It was a very productive and enlightening exercise that resulted in all of us working better together.
Indeed, we have a lot of gold in our organization. But with a few tips from The Advantage, we’re mining it and spending it more productively.