The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable

 
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Allegories and parables have long been effective ways to impart serious bits of knowledge and wisdom without getting too pedantic, and business readers seem increasingly receptive to sensible management theory that employs this lively age-old literary technique. Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, a "leadership fable" by Patrick Lencioni, continues the trend with a solid prescription for organizational health--aiming for less politics, lower turnover, more productivity, and higher morale. Presented as a fictional tale of two technical consultants and their competing companies, the story is structured in a fashion that recalls his previous book (The Five Temptations of a CEO, whose main character and firm are even slipped into this narrative). Lencioni uses this hypothetical setting to show how his concepts might look and work in the real world. In this case, his "four disciplines at the heart of making any organization world class" are revealed and explained through the philosophy and behavior of Rich O'Connor of Telegraph Partners. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team, create organizational clarity, communicate organizational clarity, and reinforce organizational clarity through human systems. Through his tale of Telegraph and its rival Greenwich Consulting, Lencioni illustrates how these principles can be beneficially employed--and how an organization can be stymied when they're missing. The story moves quickly and is followed by a comprehensive analytical summary, which includes self-assessment tools and suggestions for putting the ideas into practice. --Howard Rothman

In this stunning follow-up to his best-selling book, The Five Temptations of a CEO, Patrick Lencioni offers up another leadership fable that's every bit as compelling and illuminating as its predecessor. This time, Lencioni's focus is on a leader's crucial role in building a healthy organization--an often overlooked but essential element of business life that is the linchpin of sustained success. Readers are treated to a story of corporate intrigue as the frustrated head of one consulting firm faces a leadership challenge so great that it threatens to topple his company, his career, and everything he holds true about leadership itself. In the story's telling, Lencioni helps his readers understand the disarming simplicity and power of creating organizational health, and reveals four key disciplines that they can follow to achieve it.

Customer Reviews:

  • Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive
    This book distills the critical elements of running any organization, large or small. As someone who is contemplating running a small business, this book gave me a solid understanding of areas I need to focus on right out of the gate. The concepts were simple to understand and the book itself was a pleasure to read. One of the first things I will do with my new business partner is clarify the questions listed under discipline 2!...more info
  • Good Information, Unnecessary Format
    This book offers executives and business owners guidance on how to design and maintain an effective and efficient organization. The author decided to apply a fable format, similar to the business classic "The Goal," to drive the ideas home. The fable dramatizes two competing firms where one owner has incorrectly identified his competitive advantage. The fable is based on a clueless HR executive's experience and description of what he thinks is a dysfunctional team at one firm as he attempts to wiggle his way into a job at the competing firm.

    For some this may be an effective method. For others like me you will have no need for the fable. While the fable format worked very well in "The Goal" it seems superfluous here. For those of you that have been in business for a while you will already know all too well the elements and characteristics of a functional and dysfunctional team highlighted in the fable. Furthermore, you know that some effective elements and structure exist --after all, why did you pick up this book? Even though it is a quick and easy read, for those with little time or care to delve into the fable, I recommend that you just skip right to the section (p 139 - p 180) called "Putting The Disciplines Into Practice: A Summary And Self Assessment." This pamphlet-sized section is the information you are after and it does offer some nice insight and clarity to building an effective and efficient team. Much of the information will be ideas or concepts that you have heard before, maybe many times, through coworkers, b-school, management seminars, etc. However, the author is correct in identifying the lack of true implementation, clarity, and consistency in most organizations.

    Ideas are easy, implementation is very hard, and sustaining an effective organization is accomplished by few. All too often executives place themselves above a certain task or participation in a certain level of interview. How often have you been with a VP and he or she will take a call or check email during a meeting, or interrupt someone trying to make a point because they are impatient or think they know where something is leading, or offer cross messages by doing something not consistent with the organization's values, or assume everyone knows the company values, or well there are million examples. The results can be very damaging to an organization. And that is the point of this book. The higher the executive the more important the need for the basics: clarity, trust, focus, consistency, and communication. In the end this is a recommendable book....more info
  • Lencioni does it again
    In his follow up to The Five Temptations of a CEO, Lencioni once again captures the essence of what corporations, big and small, need to focus on in order to unleash their greatest potential. The disciplines outlined in this book are not a collection of individual habits from a hundred thousand executives, they represent, in my mind, the synthisis of what our great leaders today practice in everyday life. As an executive in Silicon Valley, I find myself incorporating these management disciplines not only with my company, but with the vendors, suppliers and partners we deal with on a regular basis. Lastly, ask yourself this question: "How important is it really that I be involved in the hiring process of my company's resources?"...read the book and get an eye-opener.

    Scott Sorochak
    President, CEO
    Jarna, Inc....more info

  • Another Great one
    All three of Pat Lencioni's books are awesome. This one is no different. The simplicity of his message and the foundations of good business make the book easy to apply to my real world. I love this book....more info
  • Book Worm
    I feel that everyone has something to gain from reading this book. It's concise, to the point and a quick read. The four disciplines are demonstrated with an easy to follow story. It looks great on paper, I can't wait until I get to put what I have learnt fron this book to practise. At this point in time, I am a bit sceptical, that these 4 extremely simple disciplines when practised consistently and diligently, can really work. I almost believe it. I want to believe it. Experience, will tel you that great things can be ahceived by teams that are aligned to the same purpose and goals....more info
  • My favorite books
    My favorite kind of books are the kind that keep me page-turning. And I'm pleasantly surprised to find that feature in a business book. 'Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive' isn't a typical business tome, full of sleepy terminology. Instead it engaged me and kept me wondering what the characters would do next--and what they would learn from it!...more info
  • Lencioni excels in clarity
    Lencioni's book extols the benefits of organizational clarity and is, in fact, written as a very clear and interesting tale of two competing organizations. "Obsessions.." stimulates thought and will motivate action for anyone responsible for the well being of their organization. Lencioni relays new insigts in each chapter. This book is a good read....more info
  • keep it simple
    Patrick Lencioni writes stories. Lots of them.

    He calls them `fables'. `Leadership fables', to be precise. It's a growing genre in business publications, perhaps a sign that such writers and their editors and marketers have caught on to the power of narrative to make a point that often comes across as dry and abstract when it's treated, well, dryly and abstractly.

    Lencioni is not a great story writer. He's just effective, which is probably satisfactory enough reward for this management consultant and, now, best-selling author (see The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Five Temptations of a CEO, and the hilariously betitled Death by Meeting).

    His secret is to keep it simple. There's not a lot of business theory here, but years of acute observation of leaders and the businesses they lead undergird the simple plot line of two executives of Bay Area firms, one who stumbles upon simplicity and another who just stumbles. Lencioni's villains are a little too simple-minded for my tastes, his hero a bit too moral. But that's only a critique if his intention is to write great literature. It's not: he wants to help execs who become too harried for our own good and anybody else's because we allow our task to complicate our work and, inevitably, our lives.

    I won't give away what the author's four obsessions are. But they're not rocket science. The author would be the first to tell you so.

    Most of us need some simplicity. And a little bit of obsession. You'll find them both here....more info
  • Highly Effective Teaching Tool
    So far I've given this book to 3 of my middle managers in an effort to explain to them what type of company I want to run. Every one of them has found Four Obsessions incredibly useful. I'd make it required reading for anyone in your business that needs help understanding the way a company should operate....more info
  • Refreshing Style, Great Content
    Great book. Pat's style is refreshing and different. The book is fast and fun to read and Pat's insights are important for everyone with a leadership role in an organization....more info
  • Great!
    Usually when I read someone try to describe what business meetings are like I just roll my eyes. It's never realistic because I guess most authors either aren't businessmen or aren't good at writing about it. Lencioni does it right. I like the way he describes how to grow a healthy company in the context of an interesting novel -- it makes it easier to absorb and appreciate the theory when it's being acted out "in real life." It's a good read, and lays out a powerful (but practical!) set of managment techniques. Hats off!...more info
  • Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive
    After having read Lencioni's first book, "The Five Temptations of a CEO", I was thrilled to learn that he had written a successor. Once again, I'm truly amazed at Lencioni's profound insights and the simplicity of his theories. According to the author, there are truly only four things that should keep me, as a leader, up at night in order to sustain a successful organization. The rest can and should be delegated to my able team. I wish he had written "Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive" years ago!...more info
  • An Amazing Series of Insights - Must Read
    One of the series of leadership fables, Patrick Lencioni did not disappoint with this fable. As with The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable and Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business, just to name a few, Patrick Lencioni weaves an intrigue into a management lesson. Chapter by chapter you read to enjoy the story and never realize what business lessons are being planted into your mind for future reference.

    It takes great talent to do this, not only once but at least 5 times. All in the series are great reads. The stories you want to read again and again. The best part is that you can complete your initial reading in one, maybe two hours time. Needless to day, as a study of business management, you want to use the books as training material for your leadership development and business skills education.

    I enjoyed this style so much, I used it to tell my story for women wanting to break the glass ceiling. The leadership fable works, inspires and entertains. It inspired me to write A Woman's Ladder to Success Is Paved with Broken Glass Ceilings. Maybe it will inspire you to be a better leader, visionary, author....more info
  • Fable on Creating and Maintaining Organizational Clarity
    Like The Five Temptations of the CEO, Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive is a leadership fable. The key lessons are summarized in the end of the book along with directions for self-assessment.

    Mr. Lencioni tells us, 'If everthing is important, then nothing is.' He expands on that point by saying, 'The key to managing this challenge, of course, is to identify a reasonable number of issues that will have the greatest possible impact on the success of your organization and then spend most of your time thinking about, talking about, and working on those issues.'

    What, then, are these issues? Mr. Lencioni feels that they mostly fall into making the organization smarter and healthier. He points out that most leaders focus on the 'smarter' part, and generally ignore the 'healthier' subject. He also asserts that the 'healthier' issues are more important than the 'smarter' ones. He defines a healthy organization as one that eliminates politics and confusion. You can tell if this has been accomplished by watching to see if morale rises, employee turnover drops, and productivity growth accelerates.

    The key obsessions are:

    1. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team

    2. Create organizational clarity

    3. Over communicate organizational clarity

    4. Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems.

    The book details the key elements of each obsession. The fable contains all of the key elements in the story.

    The fable is built around two competitive companies in the technology consulting business from the perspective of their CEOs. These men started their companies at around the same time after graduating from the same school. The more successful one obsesses on the four principles while the less successful one uses traditional focus areas. The tale builds when the more successful one makes a hiring mistake, and that mistake starts to undermine the organizational health of the company. In reading this book, you get the viewpoints of the CEO who doesn't get it, the new hire who doesn't get it, and the team members who do get it. These multiple perspectives make it easier to understand the lessons, and give texture to the discussion in the summary.

    I thought the book was quite successful in its focus, but whether these will be the key areas for all companies or not is less clear to me. The faster growing your business is and the greater the service component, the more relevant these lessons will be. You will have to decide for yourself whether you should focus primarily on these areas or not if you are CEO.

    My own experience is that a company should develop a perspective that encompasses a mission, vision, values, direction, strategy, tactics, and stakeholder commitments that are easy for everyone to grasp, are mutually supportive and consistent, are very motivating internally and externally, are easy to understand and explain, and create competitive advantages. I agree that most companies are beset with the communications stall, which is what this book addresses well.

    After you finish this book, I suggest you think about where you have a muddled understanding of what others are thinking, or they may be muddled about understanding your thinking. Then, decide how you can reduce those miscommunications in simple, effective ways.

    ...more info

  • Good solid Lencioni
    Liked the book - I had read "5 dysfunctions of a Team" first and saw the seeds of 5 dysfunctions in this book. I really like Lencioni's style of using the fable to introduce the material. It is engaging. I pastor a country church in Nebraska, and simply put, a lot of my farmers who are in leadership are intimidated by books and reading in general. Lencioni captures and engages them while introducing them to key concepts they can relate to. Good book as a complement to 5 Dysfunctions....more info
  • A Great Companion to Good to Great!
    Although The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable was published in 2000 it is still the very best companion to Jim Collins' Good to Great. Lencioni's parable illustrates better than any other book the simple but powerful principles of building and maintaining a cohesive leadership team, creating organizational clarity, the importance of over-communicating organizational clarity, and reinforcing that clarity through human systems. This is a book that I read every year. It is one of my most "marked-up" books (the front and back flyleaves are covered with notes and quotes). If you haven't picked this one up you've missed one of Lencioni's very best....more info
  • "Sterling"
    Patrick Lencioni has written a class A book in "Obsessions". I am a student at Cornell University and wrote a review of the book for a class in Organizational Development. As I was reading I was struck by the intuitive nature of the book and the simplicity of the disciplines, but as I read further the problems that arise in sticking to the disciplines is where the true test is. Creating an organization that is healthy requires dedication and courage. In the development of any organization these disciplines can be utilized to create an environment with clear lines of communication, established goals and direction, and autonomous workers who feel a sense of confidence in their ability to make decisions that coincide with the goals and values of the organization as a whole.
    Taking rather abstract ideas and molding them into a message resulting in successful leadership is the goal of any organizational change effort. As consultants, we strive to develop the leadership, within our guidelines, to run an organization more efficiently. This book provides applicable guidelines for leaders to follow that ultimately lead to a healthier organization, the goal of any organizational change effort....more info
  • Even Better than the Five Temptations
    I got an early copy of this book -- and read it in two hours. It was a fun and enlightening but also really useful. The focus on the key "obsessions" every executive needs to pay attention to struck me as very true (like his other book>) I thought the slightly sinister quality of the story also reflected some of the "dark" side of business in an accurate way. (I especially enjoyed the machiavellian use of the 360 feedback -- I never trusted that instrument !) Overall,I loved this book and highly recommend it....more info
  • Great Writing, Thin on Research
    Easy to read, well written, a page turner. It also contains a few profound thoughts--namely the four disciplines:

    1) Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team
    2) Create Organizational Clarity
    3) Over-Communicate Organization Clarity
    4) Reinforce Organizational Clarity Through Human Systems.

    The fable does a great job illustrating the meaning and application of these four disciplines. Unfortunately it stops at that. There is no appendix referencing facts, studies or collaborative evidence proving that these four obsessions really work as illustrated. (Other research based material I've read does back it up) Not including a "hardcore" chapter in this volume definitely lowers the quality of the book. But, overall I still found it an excellent book, well worth my time....more info
  • Simple. Powerful. Persuasive. Insightful.
    There is something special about hearing a story, whether it is around a campfire, a corporate boardroom, or in a book on leadership. It has a way of drawing in the reader and springing a surprise on them when their guard is down. We find ourselves more open, perhaps more honest, when we collectively share in a story that is definitely not about ourselves.

    Lencioni delivers a "leadership fable" in such a way as to sneak past our defenses and impart some important values: clear consistent communication, a leadership team which is candid but caring, and not taking the simple things for granted. We have heard these things dozens of times, yet "Four Obsessions" delivers these lessons in a way which hits home.

    The most important things tend to be the simple things: integrity, honesty, trust, transparency and love. The author never states it, but I believe that love is the underlying power that distinguishes and characterizes the truly remarkable company from the merely mediocre.

    "Four Obsessions" is a quick read but the moral of the fable lingers long after the candle is blown out.

    ...more info
  • It was good - especially since I had to read it
    I enjoyed this book. I had to read it for class, so the fact that it was prefaced with a very enjoyable story was a HUGE plus! Since I am someone actively seeking management, I found this book to be helpful with my life goals - although it seems a little simple, I am looking forward to putting this into practice!...more info
  • Book Worm
    I feel that everyone has something to gain from reading this book. It's concise, to the point and a quick read. The four disciplines are demonstrated with an easy to follow story. It looks great on paper, I can't wait until I get to put what I have learnt fron this book to practise. At this point in time, I am a bit sceptical, that these 4 extremely simple disciplines when practised consistently and diligently, can really work. I almost believe it. I want to believe it. Experience, will tel you that great things can be ahceived by teams that are aligned to the same purpose and goals....more info
  • Simple and powerful - Do it and see what happens!
    Lencioni writes this as a leadership fable, and at the end of it, does a section explaining the 4 disciplines in greater detail.

    The fable is about 2 competing companies in the same space but of different performance. One CEO wanted to know what it is about the other company. A new hiring of the lauded company became the problem of the company and has insecurities and was not able to fit in to the company culture. But in that time, he learns what goes on in that company and after resigning, he heads for the other company and begins to tell that CEO what was going on in there.

    This is an interesting fable where you can draw out lessons from it. It does show that no CEO is perfect, and many are just ordinary people who simply choose to put a focus on what needs to be done, and so he does - the 4 disciplines.

    Lencioni writes that "no one but the head of an organization can make it healthy... and so... it is actually more important for leaders to focus on making their organization healthy..." I believe the principle to be true, as any living creature that is healthy will automatically grow.

    The 4 disciplines are:
    1. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team.
    2. Create organizational clarity.
    3. Over-communicate organizational clarity.
    4. Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems.

    Lencioni's parting remarks in this book were, "First, there is nothing more important than making an organization healthy... Second, there is no substitute for discipline." Be inspired that you can make a difference as a leader wherever you are!...more info
  • Great simple insights in a pleasurable format
    I have read or listened to a number of Patrick Lencioni's books. The fable format makes them entertaining, and the simple management principles ring true. I gave this four stars because it is eclipsed by another one of Pat's books that shares some of the principles and has a better story line to bring it home. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

    In the four obsessions book we learn that the secret of company success is
    1. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team
    2. Be very clear about your message/mission/values
    3. Over communicate your message/mission/values thoughout the org.
    4. Set up systems that reinforce this organization clarity.

    Of course that are more details with the above (which I have paraphrased).

    Pat adds a helpful review of the model at the end of the fable. I really recommend this book!!...more info
  • Engaging, insightful
    This book is Lencioni's second leadership fable. Weaving a story around a set of principles can be an effective teaching technique, and Lencioni is skillful in the art of moral-based storytelling.

    The first 136 pages of the book are consumed in telling the story of a CEO who discovered an effective way to lead his organization. The basis of the approach is a set of four disciplines, which are not revealed to the reader until the problem scenario has been established. This sequencing is valuable, since it forces the reader to come to grips with the real-life experiences of the characters of the story. The plot is intriguing.

    The engaging tale holds the reader's attention strongly enough that there is minimal temptation to read ahead to see if the butler did it. The lure of the story holds your attention. The realistic scenes and dialog give an "edge" to the story; you forget you're reading a business book. It's not difficult at all to relate to each of the characters, even to the extent, perhaps, of identifying some of the characters with colleagues at work in your own organization. But there are surprises, so don't think you can second-guess this book.

    The story told, the author changes hats on page 137 to slide into the role of consultant and teacher. He explains the four disciplines through a narrative style that I'd liken to a friend sitting across the table from you. But then the questions start. Lots of questions . . . and answers. This effective consulting style comes naturally: Lencioni is president of a consulting firm in the San Francisco area.

    I recommend this book for CEOs, company owners, and consultants who serve them. You'll learn some interesting principles and how to convey them, but you'll also learn from the experience of reading the fable. Those who want to improve their communication of leadership concepts will benefit from the way Lencioni wove his story.
    Short book, big lessons.

    No, I didn't tell you the what the four disciplines are. I don't want to spoil it for you. Give into the temptation: read this book....more info

  • Interesting View of a "Healthy Organization"
    Patrick Lencioni, utilizing his engaging fable-as-lesson writing style, covers his view of the four "Disciplines" of a healthy organization in "The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive." The fable...and the "Model" underlying the fable...stresses the importance of clarity in a healthy organization.

    As in a number of Lencioni's other books, the simplicity of the framework covered in this book is stressed...as is the difficulty in actually implementing the framework.

    I found this book a worthwhile read due to its simplicity, its straightforward messages and its blending of a story with managerial ideas. Furthermore, I appreciated the fact that the principles espoused in the book are laid out in a manner that directly connects the managerial ideas to actions that can be taken within an organization....more info
  • An engaging story with concrete, memorable examples
    I've previously read Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni. I really connect with his ability to tell an engaging story which communicates the point. He then spends the last third of this book describing the four principals and how to put them into practice within the organization.

    The four disciplines of a healthy organization are:

    1. Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team
    2. Create Organizational Clarity
    3. Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity
    4. Reinforce Organizational Clarity Through Human Systems

    While there is a very big focus on executive teams and high level managers, this book can be used for leaders who are putting together smaller teams. The truth is that at every level of the organization there need to be teams who understand the values and are comfortable with each-other.

    I especially appreciated Patrick's explanation of how to define clarity and communicating vision and mission. I also appreciated his focus on how important a healthy organization is, even more important than higher revenue and large clients.

    I also appreciated that there were a few concrete examples provides as well as questions to help us define our own answers and to model our organization.

    This is definitely a great read for anyone who manages teams of people or defines the direction of an organization....more info
  • Be entertained and receive the tools to apply principles
    This is an extremely easy (and quick) read, and is very entertaining. If you are looking for a tool to begin transforming your executive team into extraordinary leaders, this is the book you want to read and use. This should become required reading for your executive team...and they will actually enjoy it! After entertaining you with his "leadership fable", Patrick Lencioni provides practical, realistic methods by which you can apply the lessons learned. This is a not just another management book...this is a TOOL that you can put to work for your organization....more info
  • Another Winning Leadership Fable From Lencioni
    Pat Lencioni has done it again! "Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive" is an engaging leadership fable based on four impactful leadership principles we should all have written on our yellow pads. Through the growth and experiences of Telegraph Partners' CEO, Rich O'Connor, Lencioni illustrates how powerful a values-based culture led from the top can be. More importantly, he shows us how much personal sacrifice and courage it takes for leaders to run such a marathon.

    Similar to my experience with Lencioni's earlier fable, "The Five Temptations of a CEO," I found myself reading the book in a single sitting and trying to apply Pat's coaching almost immediately in my personal and professional life. Both "Obsessions" and "Temptations" should be required reading for every leader striving to become better....more info

  • An answered prayer
    Patrick Lencioni has once again presented a concise, compelling, simple, and wise look at the role of a leader in an organization. 5 temptations of a CEO, a title I felt should have been 5 temptations of any manager, was a much needed look at the insecurities that hit once we are in charge. The trouble I had with that book, and the author deserves no blame for this, is that the individuals who truly needed it would probably not recognize their areas for improvement.

    Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive answers that need. I am sure that all executives, all of us, feel extraordinary. We will pick this book up expecting a pat on the back for a job well done. Instead, this book challenges the role of the leader and presents 4 disciplines that should be at the Heart of any World Class organization. In fable format, which is far less threatening, and much more enjoyable to read, Lencioni shares the 4 simple disciplines of healthy organizations- 4.Reinforcing Clarity through Human Systems- 3.Overcommunicate Organizational Clarity- 2. Create Organizational Clarity- 1.Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team

    It is impossible to read this book and not learn from the past experiences that one has as a leader. It also reminds the reader that it is at the very top that an organization derives it's health. Without leadership committed to health, the organization will never find it.

    For all the leaders out there, buy this book, open your mind and read it. You may have to face some tough truths, but the individuals who work for you, will thank you for it....more info

  • High impact read
    This book is a very quick read that still manages to hit you between the eyes with a one-two punch of horror (oh my gosh, we do that all the time!) and hope. I don't know how he does it, but Mr. Lencioni has a knack for storytelling that makes it look he's been bugging your hallways, staff meetings and off-sites.

    The good news is that he articulates a straight forward (and not touchy-feely) prescription for a better-functioning organization. Like other great business books, the points seem obvious only in retrospect... few companies, I submit, actually engage in these key practices and waste a lot of time because of their failure to do so.

    The day after reading it, I went through it again, writing a (long) list of actions that we're now taking in order to become a healthy -- as opposed to merely smart -- organization. If we had adopted it earlier, I think we would have blown away our goals, improved our retention, and kept everyone a lot happier....more info

  • Overlooked wisdom: Simple but powerful
    The first three-quarters of this book consists of a fictional account of a technology consulting company run by CEO Rich O'Connor. O'Connor runs his company according to four disciplines which together powerfully maintain the health of the organization's culture. The four disciplines are: Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team; Create Organizational Clarity; Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity; and Reinforce Organizational Clarity Through Human Systems. While none of this will appear astoundingly new, the message is important and often not implemented. The fictional portrayal is followed by a more detailed analysis of the four disciplines. Most readers will find this a quick and enjoyable read that should ignite productive thinking about healthy organizations. Without a sound corporate culture even the smartest strategies and business models will not work optimally. Definitely worth reading....more info
  • Did the extraordinary executive get it wrong?
    Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive is Patrick Lencioni's second book written in 2000, again it is a fiction as well as a management book. The readers would be eager to know the obsessions of that very successful person. CEO is supposed to be rational and sensible. It is curious to note that such a person could be obsessed with anything. In fact, on very important issues, we had better be obsessed rather than let them off the hook lightly.

    The story looks like a novel involving commercial spies. It is a tale of two companies, similar in the industry they were in, their niche, their strength, their customers, their size, their strategy. It is a matter of management style which made differences in their culture and organization health. The story evolves around a virus which attacked a company. It set off suspicion and created a crisis. The story told the strength of a cohesive team of good organization health and how it fought off the virus. The virus revealed the secret of the obsessions to the CEO of the rival company who thought otherwise. You will guess the ending about the future of these two companies.

    The interesting part is the virus, who is the VP of HR, kind of like a very capable EO specializing in our professional area. The problem with him was that he did not participate actively in discussions, was not willing to share his views, and not wholeheartedly merged with the management team. He liked to hide himself and revealed his opinion last, and in a non-committal way. He appears to me as having the attributes of some civil servants. The virus was exposed as not being able to align with the culture of the company. I wonder if this is a sin for civil servant for not being able to align with the culture of the government, or the department, or the grade.

    The thrust of the story is the obsessions. They are actually very simple and concern the organization culture, its core values, its identity, direction, strategy and objectives. The obsessions are how the CEO took these in mind and action. He was obsessed with being cohesive, being clear, over-communicating and reinforcing. These are the four disciplines to be upheld.

    1st discipline: Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team - We all know that it is desirable to have team members working happily together. But the obsession went a step further of letting team members know one another's unique strength and weakness, openly engaging in constructive ideological conflict, holding one another accountable for behaviours and actions, and committing to group decisions. As a result, the cohesive and healthy team was able to fight off the virus which tried to contaminate the team spirit.

    2nd discipline: Create organizational clarity - Writing up vision and mission statements is a common practice in setting up the identity of the company and its long term goal. It was trendy a few years ago and everyone did it. The CEO of the rival company said it was mentioned in Build to Last which all management people knew well and could readily recite. But these statements are just empty slogans only fit for display as decoration on the wall. The obsession is to make these organizational identity, culture, strategy and responsibilities very clear, that action plans could be formed without confusion based on them.

    3rd discipline: Over-communicate organizational clarity - Over-doing anything is an obsession. But for issues as important as the organizational clarity, there is no thrift in over-communicating them. The obsessed CEO conveyed messages on organization clarity repeatedly on every occasion, using simple language to eliminate confusion and inconsistency, using multiple media to meet different level of reception, and cascading the messages down the ranks until the message was heard by all.

    4th discipline: Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems - At the end of the day, it is human that preserve or undermine culture. The CEO was obsessed with sustaining the health of the organization by making sure that the human systems were used to reinforce organizational clarity. All staff were tested and reinforced of their alignment with the organizational culture through the recruitment process, performance management, rewards and recognition, and dismissal.

    We all claim that culture is hard to change. But the reality is that culture is also hard to maintain. When the CEO found a culture that was good for the company, he was obsessed to preserving it, or seen the other way round, obsessed to changing the behaviour of the staff to align with the culture. Or you may say that he was changing other cultures or sub-cultures to align with his culture. This is very hard to do, and it really takes an obsessed CEO to keep the company on the track.

    ...more info
  • Obviously, not all obsessions are productive and beneficial

    This is one in a series of "leadership fables" in which Patrick Lencioni shares his thoughts about the contemporary business world. His characters are fictitious human beings rather than anthropomorphic animals, such as a tortoise that wins a race against a hare or pigs that lead a revolution to overthrow a tyrant and seize control of his farm.

    In this instance, Lencioni focuses on a common business problem for or challenge to leaders: How to identify "a reasonable number of issues that will have the greatest possible impact on the success of [their] organization, and then spend most [their] time thinking about, talking about, and working on those issues." Presumably Lencioni agrees with Stephen Covey (among others) that executives tend to spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important. Of course, that sets a bad example for their direct reports. Viewed another way, some obsessions are productive...others are not. Extraordinary executives know the differences between the two types.

    Here's the fictitious situation. Lencioni introduces CEOs of two rival firms in the Bay Area, Vince Green (Greenwich Consulting) and Rich O'Connor (Telegraph Partners) who have quite different obsessions: Green's are best revealed within the book's narrative; Green's are directly or indirectly the result what could be described as Greenwich Consulting's organizational inferiority complex insofar as Telegraph Partners is concerned. There is an early and significant development when O'Connor - struggling to cope with the pressures of trying to balance his family and his successful but demanding business - experiences what Lencioni characterizes as an "epiphany": the recognition of four basis activities ("disciplines, really") that guide and inform his leadership of Telegraph Partners thereafter. "He never certainly suspected that [his list of what become leadership obsessions] would become the blue-print of an employee's plan to destroy the firm."

    Almost immediately, it becomes obvious that a new hire, Jamie Bender, "didn't seem to share the hunger and humility of his colleagues" at Telegraph Partners and that is a key point for reasons also best revealed within Lencioni's narrative. Recognizing the mistake, O'Connor must decide how to correct it. Over time, he and his colleagues become infected by what Lencioni describes as a "virus." What then happens - and does not happen - throughout the ensuing weeks allow Lencioni to dramatize both the importance of the four "obsessions of an extraordinary executive" to which the title of his book refers and the consequences when any one of them is compromised. He is a brilliant business thinker but he also possesses the skills of a master raconteur, introducing a cast of characters, conflicts between and among them, and then allowing "rising action" build to a climax (i.e. resolution) also best revealed within the narrative.

    Of special interest to me is a conversation between Bender and Green when Bender explains each of the four disciplines with which O'Connor is obsessed. This conversation occurs late in the narrative and indicates that Bender understands the four disciplines and yet is unwilling and/or unable to master and then follow them. (This strikes me as an excellent example of what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton characterize as the "Knowing-Doing Gap.") Bender's explanation seems somewhat didactic to me but, nonetheless, serves as a means by which Lencioni can summarize his key points. He adds a nice dramatic touch when O'Connor appears at Green's office and there is a brief encounter between him and Bender before he and Green meet. Although they and other executives are fictitious characters, each is credible as a human being rather than as a literary device.

    As is Lencioni's custom in each of the other volumes in the series of "leadership fables," he then provides an "Organizational Health: The Model" section and supplementary material (Pages 139-180) whose value-added benefits will help his reader to make effective application of the lessons learned from the experiences shared by Rich O'Connor and his colleagues at Telegraph Partners as well as from what Vince Green finally realizes about himself and about the consequences of his own obsessions.

    Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Patrick Lencioni's other "leadership fables" as well as Michael Ray's The Highest Goal, David Maister's Practice What You Preach, Bill George's Authentic Leadership and his more recently published True North, James O'Toole's Creating the Good Life, and Michael Maccoby's Narcissistic Leaders.
    ...more info
  • Great story! Sound management advice. What's next?
    This book was a pleasure to read! The four management disciplines are so basic, and so often missed in many companies. The story is easy and enjoyable to read and helps illustrate exactly how each of the four points can be implemented. It is a more enjoyable read than most dry business books and not as "cheesy" as others....more info

 

 
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