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How Is Your Organizational Health?

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How healthy is your organization? Patrick Lencioni, a speaker at the L2L event on October 9th, defines organizational health as, “An organization that functions effectively by building a cohesive leadership team, establishing real clarity among those leaders, communicating that clarity to everyone within the organization and putting in place just enough structure to reinforce that clarity going forward.” Those four disciplines are vital to your organization’s success, and when one is lacking, it affects the company as a whole.

Look at your business as a living and breathing entity, with the leadership team as the brain. If the whole brain isn’t on the same page, it can’t create the decisions needed to control the daily tasks of the other parts of the organization. Similarly, if that decision isn’t communicated or reinforced, the other parts of the organizational body won’t know to follow.

In his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, Lencioni argues that a clean bill of organizational health is the ultimate competitive advantage. Virtually every organization, of any size, has access to the best thinking and practices around strategy, technology, marketing, finance and other factors traditionally looked to as a way to become the best. But even the most cutting-edge organizations will fail if the four identified internal disciplines are weak. Below, Lencioni goes into detail about what each discipline means and why it is important to organizational health:

1. Build a Cohesive Leadership Team

A cohesive team builds trust, eliminates politics and increases efficiency by knowing one another’s unique strengths and weaknesses, openly engaging in constructive ideological conflict, holding one another accountable for behaviors and actions, and committing to group decisions.

Leadership acting as one strong unit is the core of your organization. Turmoil within the leadership team causes distress on your organization, and Lencioni argues that the damage caused by a dysfunctional leadership team will cascade down through the rest of your organization. In his book, he provides concrete steps a leadership team can take to prevent this.

2. Create Clarity

Healthy organizations minimize the potential for confusion by clarifying the following questions:

  • Why do we exist?

  • How do we behave?

  • What do we do?

  • How will we succeed?

  • What is most important, right now?

  • Who must do what?

It is critical that members of your leadership team are intellectually aligned around these six questions, which shape your organization’s mission and what is of the utmost priority for the next few months. Be specifying goals and an operational focus within the leadership team, people who are one, two or three levels below them should also be able to have complete clarity about what they need to do to make the organization successful.

3. Over-communicate Clarity

Healthy organizations align their employees around organizational clarity by communicating key messages through the following tactics:

  • Repetition: Don’t be afraid to repeat the same message, again and again.

  • Simplicity: The more complicated the message, the more potential for confusion and inconsistency.

  • Multiple mediums: People react to information in many ways; use a variety of mediums.

  • Cascading messages: Leaders communicate key messages to direct reports; the cycle repeats itself until the message is heard by all.

Once your leadership is on the same page, it is time to share it with the rest of your organization constantly. Leaders of a healthy organization constantly repeat themselves and reinforce what is true and important. They err on the side of caution by saying it too much, rather than too little. This quality sets leaders of healthy organizations apart from others.

4. Reinforce Clarity

Organizations sustain their health by ensuring consistency in hiring, managing performance, rewards and recognition, and employee dismissal.

It is not enough to simply communicate the message. Your organization must LIVE the message. Reinforce what you believe through the processes that involve people, from hiring and firing to performance management and decision-making. Keep your goals and values at the core to intentionally support and emphasize the uniqueness of the organization.

Healthy organizations recover from setbacks, attract the best people, repel the others and create opportunities that they couldn’t have expected. Click here for Lencioni’s Comprehensive Organizational Health Check List. To see his live simulcast in the Des Moines, click here!