Peer to Peer Magazine

September 2011

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 84 of 107

BOOK review LEADING THE WAY TO ORGANIZATIONAL HEALTH S torytelling has been an effective teaching device since our ancestors gathered around a fire to hear the myths of their culture retold. From the fables of Aesop, with their explicit morals — Necessity is the mother of invention. Slow and steady wins the race. Once bitten, twice shy. Don't leave your flock in the care of a wolf. — to the gentle allegories of Mister Rogers, didactic tales deliver their lessons to us in a way that reaches us on many levels. And they stay with us, continuing to dispense their wisdom into our conscious and unconscious minds like a time- release capsule. A MODERN AESOP In the world of business, the Aesop of our time is Patrick Lencioni. His best-selling "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" (Jossey-Bass, 2002) is a fictional narrative that depicts a newly appointed CEO coming to grips with the personalities and politics that have all but paralyzed the executive team of a high-tech firm in Silicon Valley. The closing pages of the book spell out the model successfully implemented by the CEO and offer tools for assessing dysfunctional teams. In the second of Lencioni's seven (to date) business fables, "The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive" (Jossey- Bass, 2000), the storyline follows two rivals in the technology consulting field: Rich O'Connor, who appears to sail lightly over the rough waters of competition, and Vince Green, forever trailing in his wake, who is desperate to overtake him by any means necessary. What is Rich's secret? That's what Vince would like to know. As far as he can tell, they are evenly matched, but he is perennially second best in his market. Sometimes his frustration just about makes him crazy. 86 Peer to Peer THE ONE THING THAT MATTERS In fact, Rich has weathered his own crisis — and come out stronger. One night when stress has driven him right to the brink, Rich has an epiphany. Running a company, staying on top of developments in a rapidly burgeoning field, and trying to lead something like a normal family life in the few remaining hours of the week have just about burnt him out. He is on the verge of giving up. In his dark night of despair, he asks himself the pivotal question: "What is the one thing I do that really matters to the firm?" The answers that emerge from Rich's soul-searching are brief enough to fit on one side of a sheet of yellow ruled paper and comprehensive enough to turn his working life around. Rich writes four points on his legal pad. Those four points, the 'Four Obsessions' of the title, become his touchstones for building and maintaining the health of his company. Every decision he makes and every action he takes is measured against them, to winning effect. Lencioni observes that all successful organizations are both smart and healthy. Unfortunately, the tendency to value what we can quantify often means that health is underemphasized. "Organizational health is relatively hard to measure, and even harder to achieve," he says. "It feels soft to executives who prefer more quantitative and reliable methods of steering their companies." Yet it actually warrants the greater share of their attention because it is the most important prerequisite for success. Not only do healthy organizations usually find a way to become smarter, but they withstand problems better than unhealthy ones. And the role of the CEO is crucial. Says Lencioni: "No one but the head of an organization can make it healthy."

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