4 Disciplines Create “The Advantage” for Growth

Article submitted by guest author Pam Watson Korbel

In my years of consulting, a few common issues arise for small and medium-sized businesses that always inhibit their growth:

  • Infighting among the executive team;
  • Failure to get out of the weeds and take the time to plan for growth;
  • Poor communication cadences leading to problems with culture and productivity;
  • Lack of appreciation for the need for a strong employee base.

One book tightly delves into all these topics – The Advantage (Jossey Bass, 2012) by Patrick Lencioni.   Known as a fable writer, in this book Lencioni focuses instead on the “how to’s” of organizational health.  I recommend it for executive teams in any industry.

Building upon the same premises that Jim Collins (Built to Last and Good to Great) and Verne Harnish (Scaling Up and Mastering the Rockefeller Habits), The Advantage starts out by laying a foundation of four disciplines necessary for strong organizational health:

1.  Build a cohesive leadership team – Anecdotally, I have found that when members of a leadership team spend a lot of time together, professionally and socially, their growth rate is faster than those who do not.  Interestingly, the personal bonds often spur the commitment to the business more than the professional bonds.  Lencioni espouses team building and makes a strong point that it is a process not an event.

2.  Create clarity – Lencioni lays out six strategic questions that every leadership team needs to answer on behalf of the company.  Beyond answering “why” the firm exists and what the culture is, the Lencioni system provides a framework for setting priorities.

Most importantly, it helps a leadership team to focus on less than a handful of matters at a time; completing them before it progresses to a new set of priorities.  In my experience, mid-market companies fail to advance when everything needs to be done today.  I have seen many companies improve revenue and profit just by reducing the number of initiatives for the company and for individuals.

3.  Overcommunicate clarity – Smart people who lead entrepreneurial growth companies often assume that their employees are as smart and agile as they are.  Generally, the employees who fit this description leave your company and start their own.  Which leaves you with people who want stability and consistency along with understanding of priorities.  And that requires that you develop a strong communication system within your company so that employees always know what is important and then they can execute.

4.  Reinforce clarity – The Advantage concludes by laying out a foundation of hiring the right employees who fit your culture and then providing high-quality feedback to each so that they are motivated to excel.  Especially in today’s knowledge-based industries, involving staff in decisions and direction keeps them motivated.  And as Ken Blanchard (The One-Minute Manager) says, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

The bottom-line is that reading and implementing The Advantage in your company is a simple, direct way to encourage financial growth while engendering a strong team of supporters.  Lencioni lays out a process to address the four disciplines and implement them that leadership teams can manage effectively with coaching.

You can study this system by reading the book and you should also check out The Advantage app, which includes an overview of the content plus an organizational health assessment. For help with the four disciplines and implementing The Advantage, contact Pam Watson Korbel.

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