The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
By Patrick Lencioni
(Jossey-Bass, $27.95, 240 pp.)
Patrick Lencioni does it again. He pulls from his years of consulting experience, behavioral models, and previous bestselling works to present an easy-to-understand solution to the typical dysfunctions of an organization. The Advantage clearly outlines Lencioni's approach to organizational integrity, supported by a number of real-world examples from the author's time in practice.
While The Advantage does focus on "integrity," it is not a book about the ethics or moral standing of an organization. It is about creating successful businesses by achieving degrees of organizational health—which the author says is a gauge of organizational integrity—through the integration and alignment of management, operational strategy, and culture.
The foundations of organizational health lie not within how smart an organization is in regard to classic business fundamentals, such as marketing, finance, and economics, but pertain to the organization's active minimization of politics and confusion, high degrees of morale and productivity, and low turnover from productive employees. According to Lencioni, the path to a healthy organization can be achieved through the application of the four disciplines: build a cohesive leadership team, create clarity, over-communicate clarity, and reinforce clarity.
For me, several concepts from the book were especially notable. "The healthier the organization, the more intelligence it is able to tap and utilize" (called the multiplier effect), and dysfunction at the top leads to a lack of health within the organization (according to the first discipline).
Additionally, the fourth discipline explains how "human systems are tools for reinforcements of clarity. They exist to provide a structure for tying operations, culture, and management together," not solely to prevent litigation and control risk within the realm of human capital.
This book is a quick read that provides practical information for leaders and professionals in organization development, HR, and training. The author includes an easy-to-use checklist, which assists with the practical application of the disciplines and provides a brief summary of each section of the book.
If you have worked in a dysfunctional organization, work in one currently, or have heard stories from friends who suffered as employees in one, this book will keep your interest. I plan to add it to the other Lencioni titles on my bookshelf. I give it four cafe au laits.
Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success
(Perigee Trade, $22.95, 224 pp.)
Think twice before you jump on that elevator! Easier doesn't always mean better in the long-run. Vaden discusses how self-discipline can help you to reach your goals, accomplish challenging feats, and overcome procrastination in an effort to make yours a positive, successful, productive life. Using the "take the stairs" mentality, Vaden suggests that you can live the life you've always wanted by avoiding the easy way out, the shortcuts, and common distractions. He offers seven strategies for self-discipline: sacrifice, commitment, focus, integrity, schedule, faith, and action. Through the book's seven chapters, Vaden discusses each of the seven strategies and how together they contribute to a "take the stairs" kind of life.
Managing Coaching at Work: Developing, Evaluating and Sustaining Coaching in Organizations
Jackie Keddy and Clive Johnson
(Kogan Page, $39.95, 268 pp.)
Using several comprehensive case studies of well-known organizations, Keddy and Johnson discuss the what, the why, and the how of developing, evaluating, and sustaining coaching. Divided into three parts, Managing Coaching at Work offers practical advice and is a great resource for those looking to better understand what coaching is and is not, the goals of effective coaching, and how best to implement coaching initiatives. Appealing to both seasoned coaching practitioners and those new to coaching, the authors share tips and insights about effective coaching. The book includes appendices with templates, microtools, and checklists to aid in managing coaching, as well as references to coaching journals and periodicals.
Calculating Success: How the New Workplace Analytics Will Revitalize Your Organization
Carl Hoffmann, Eric Lesser, and Tim Ringo
(Harvard Business Review Press, $35, 272 pp.)
Calculating Success: How the New Workplace Analytics Will Revitalize Your Organization offers an innovative, six-step framework for using effective talent management to develop a stable, cost-effective workforce. With the wealth of data available to an organization, there is great potential for success if those data are effectively integrated. Using detailed examples from large organizations, the authors show evidence of how applying analytics can create an efficient workplace. In the book's seven chapters, the authors apply their combined decades of experience to offer executives guidance on how to sift through and use the data at their disposal to dramatically improve organizational performance.
What's on Tamara Erickson's Bookshelf?
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond refutes the idea that Eurasian civilizations survived and conquered others based on intellectual, moral, or inherent genetic superiority. Instead, Diamond outlines a compelling case for the powerful influence of geography. He argues that gaps in power and technology between human societies originated in environmental differences and were not inherent in genomes. This book has profoundly changed my outlook on life.
The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style and Your Life by Thomas W. Malone created a similar shift in my thinking about organizations. Malone places the history of our organizational structures and decision-making processes in the context of technology evolution. In so doing, he argues that our current notions about decentralization and empowerment merely scratch the surface of what will be possible as technology renders historical management approaches obsolete. This is without a doubt my favorite business book.
Mobilizing Invisible Assets by Hiroyuki Itami is my favorite book on strategy. Itami argues that successful corporate strategies depend on the marshaling of a firm's "invisible assets"—resources such as technical know-how, the visibility of a brand name, or knowledge of a customer base—as well as its tangible assets such as people, goods, and money. He emphasizes the ways strategy must fit the firm's external environment and the importance of internal fit within the organization.