Today’s guest post is from 2012 Global Institute for Leadership Development faculty member Patrick Lencioni. Here he addresses the last competitive advantage of business as discussed in his newest book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
The Last Competitive Advantage
No, those disciplines have not disappeared. They are all alive and well in most organizations. And that’s good, because they’re important. But as meaningful competitive advantages, as real differentiators that can set one company apart from another, they are no longer anything close to what they once were.
That’s because virtually every organization, of any size, has access to the best thinking and practices around strategy, technology and those other topics. In this age of the internet, as information has become ubiquitous, it’s almost impossible to sustain an advantage based on intellectual ideas.
However, there is one remaining, untapped competitive advantage out there, and it’s more important than all the others ever were. It is simple, reliable and virtually free. What I’m talking about is organizational health.
The Healthy Organization
A healthy organization is one that has all but eliminated politics and confusion from its environment. As a result, productivity and morale soar, and good people almost never leave. For those leaders who are a bit skeptical, rest assured that none of this is touchy-feely or soft. It is as tangible and practical as anything else a business does, and even more important.
Why? Because the smartest organization in the world, the one that has mastered strategy and finance and marketing and technology, will eventually fail if it is unhealthy. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen again and again. But a healthy organization will always find a way to succeed, because without politics and confusion, it will inevitably become smarter and tap into every bit of intelligence and talent that it has.
So if all this is true and I am absolutely convinced that it is, then why haven’t more companies embraced and reaped the benefits of organizational health? For one, it’s hard. It requires real work and discipline, over a period of time, and it must be maintained. On top of that, it’s not sophisticated or sexy. That means it doesn’t excite a group of executives who are looking for a quick fix or a silver bullet, something that they will be reading about in the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg Businessweek. Moreover, in spite of it’s power, organizational health is hard to measure in a precise, accurate way. It impacts so many disparate areas of an enterprise that it is virtually impossible to isolate it as a single variable and quantify its singular impact on the bottom line.
But the biggest reason that organizational health remains untapped is that it requires courage. Leaders must be willing to confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunction within their organization with an uncommon level of honesty and persistence. They must be prepared to walk straight into uncomfortable situations and address issues that prevent them from realizing the potential that eludes them.
Patrick Lencioni is the author of ten business books including the new release, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, and the national best-seller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He is founder and president of The Table Group, a management consulting firm focused on organizational health.