📚 Meister Book Club: Reinforce Organizational Clarity through Human Systems

Andres D'Andrea
Andres D'Andrea EN Basic, International Partner, MT Tester Posts: 490 Community Leader
edited February 16 in Community Café

Today I read this MeisterTask feature request presented by @RhondaP, and it reminded me of a book I read around 9 years ago.

That book is named "The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive" by Patrick Lencioni.

In it, you'll find a truly entertaining description of the 4 strategies recommended by the author to build the strong corporate culture needed to succeed in the so competitive world we live nowadays.

What is the book about?

In short, these are the 4 core principles explained in the book:

1. Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team

Trust, the removal of unhealthy politics and effective decision-making are key disciplines to foster within the leading team, although this can be challenging because it requires uniform commitment from all executives involved. Excessive corporate politics cause unresolved issues between top leaders, which can lead to an environment of distrust, disillusionment, and fatigue among the staff. By taking responsibility to resolve differences and speak in one voice, executives can create an atmosphere of trust that helps employees focus on delivering results. This enables people to thrive and stay with the organization.

2. Create Organizational Clarity

Organizational clarity involves reaching an agreement on the core principles that guide decision-making at every level. It is not about producing catchy slogans, but rather helps to make it easier to determine the best course of action when presented with conflicting choices.

3. Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity

After achieving organizational clarity, it is essential to continuously distribute it to the staff and leaders to ensure it is understood and remembered throughout the organization, not once, not in the main branch only. Every time, everywhere. Repetition is the key in this part.

4. Reinforce Organizational Clarity through Human Systems

To keep an organization healthy, the clarity must be embedded into all the processes that influence the value chain, especially, the operational processes. 

What's the point?

The interesting insights I caught from @RhondaP's request are these:

  • The whole Meister Suite (specially MeisterTask) is a system extensively used by humans in organizations around the world: hence, it's a "Human System".
  • All organizations are different, hence the need for a "Customized Message".

So, her request, if implemented, could potentially help in covering half of the book:

  • Over-communicating Organizational clarity
  • Reinforce Organizational Clarity through Human Systems

Do you agree with me on this one? 💡

Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below.

Anyway, I recommend the book and the entire author's collection to any person interested in learning practical ways of building and leading modern teams.

If you like this post, you might like another one I published several months ago named: 6 Tactics To Establish A Culture Of Accountability In Your Company With MeisterTask Business.

Best regards.

Andrés D'Andrea

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Comments

  • Andres D'Andrea
    Andres D'Andrea EN Basic, International Partner, MT Tester Posts: 490 Community Leader

    @Cornelia Patscheider I like Canva too, how do you like the banner I made for the post above ☝

    Have a great week 👋

    Andrés.

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  • Cornelia Patscheider
    Cornelia Patscheider EN Basic, International Partner, DACH Partner, MeisterLobster Posts: 41 Star Contributor

    Nice one @Andres D'Andrea !! 🚀

  • Miša Hennin
    Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster Posts: 695 Community Admin

    Hey @Andres D'Andrea and thanks for adding to the Meister Book Club - I don't think I remember many of the books I read 9 years ago so it really must have left an impression!

    A few things that seem particularly interesting in the synopsis you shared:

    1. The leadership team should take "responsibility to resolve differences and speak in one voice". I think this is so so important! It's really hard for an organization to thrive if there are discrepancies amongst those at the top. I love the image of speaking in one voice. But at the same time transparency is important, what do you think of the relationship between a united leadership and a transparent one? If there are disagreements on key issues maybe the rest of the team should know.
    2. I also really agree with the point about core principles that guide decision making and that these should be more than simply catchy slogans. It's important to keep our company values at the center of what we do each day and this helps in a variety of ways (brand building, consistent messaging, etc.).
    3. I was wondering which of these principles you have mastered in the last 9 years?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Best,

    Miša

  • Andres D'Andrea
    Andres D'Andrea EN Basic, International Partner, MT Tester Posts: 490 Community Leader

    Hello @Miša, thank you for taking my submission to the book club.

    Thanks for those wonderful questions as well. It's my pleasure to respond to you in the following lines:

    I don't think I remember many of the books I read 9 years ago, so it really must have left an impression!

    Indeed, 9 years ago, I faced some of the most enduring challenges in my career (so far). Those challenges influenced deeply the way I see the world today. It was a period for big growth in terms of leadership and soft skills mentioned in the book.

    A few things that seem particularly interesting in the synopsis you shared:


    1. The leadership team should take "responsibility to resolve differences and speak in one voice". I think this is so so important! It's really hard for an organization to thrive if there are discrepancies amongst those at the top. I love the image of speaking in one voice. But at the same time transparency is important...

    I agree 100% with you on how critical "taking responsibility to resolve differences" is to achieve "one voice" at the top, or "Team Cohesion" which is the term I like to use. 

    However, I agree partially with you in the way you phrased the core challenge:

    "It's really hard for an organization to thrive if there are discrepancies amongst those at the top."

    I would just change "discrepancies" by "unresolved discrepancies" because what really represents a threat to the results is not discrepancies coming up, but the act of proceeding with business ops without resolving them.

    Allow me to elaborate: In an ideal scenario, everybody will take responsibility for their actions, they would even manifest conflicting situations and the willing to brainstorm a resolution together, but that's not always the truth. Leaders assuming transparency as a default characteristic in their teams are being a bit unrealistic. It's not what you see on the field most of the time. At least, in my experience.

    Likewise, the prevention of discrepancies at all cost is probably an unrealistic goal too because there will always be discrepancies on every level.

    At the end of the day, we all see the world in our particular way, and that's good. That promotes diversity of ideas!

    I don't even think that "achieving conflict-resolution as quickly as possible" is the hardest challenge, either, because any person with some negotiation skills and a trained body language can negotiate a resolution.

    For me, the hardest challenge as a leader is to effectively identify the non-expressed conflicts.

    I.E. when people are not being "Transparent" with other members of the team. The lack of trust amongst team members could be a causing factor in those cases.

    You see, if there's one place on earth where the saying "there's more than meets the eye" applies, it's México. It takes a great deal of silence and attention to understand the culture, the idiosyncrasy, the corporate politics, the customer's needs, the variables, and dynamics at play that define how people behave, inside and outside the organization.

    That's why I LOVE MEXICO because México taught me that!

    I used to joke with my wife about the feeling of being a spectator of something I called at the time "The Corporate Game of Thrones"

    Leaders don't pay attention to these nuances at their peril. Usually, they end up being one more casualty of "Corporate Politics". At least that's true in the country where I currently live.

    I was fortunate enough to confirm with my eyes from different angles what I described above: 

    • Companies I worked for as a manager; 
    • Companies I consulted for as an entrepreneur/consultant. 
    • Even, companies where I was the customer. 

    It's spectacular to experience from the first row the consequences obtained when "corporate politics" prevail over "corporate values".

    A practical way of probing organizational health is available in my post: 6 Tactics To Establish A Culture Of Accountability In Your Company With MeisterTask Business.

    There, I recommend the leaders to take a 3-step approach:

    1. Purposefully expose issues with the team in a controlled space (a meeting for example)
    2. Remain silent, don't intervene after you manifest the existence of conflict
    3. Watch how the team reacts, pay close attention to words, but specially body language!

    Depending on the way your team reacts to the manifestation of issues or conflict, you will gain an idea of how members of your team:

    1. Deal with taking responsibility
    2. Manifest differences or conflicting situations
    3. Brainstorm ideas, solutions, or alternatives
    4. And finally, if they can resolve conflicts and achieve consensus at all

    The order is important.

    So, in summary: yes, taking responsibility is crucial, but:

    • Responsibility not always comes as default in team members
    • Conflicts are not always openly expressed amongst team members

    Those are the challenges a modern leader faces every day. To implement effective conflict resolution strategies, the leader needs to develop some kind of "Organizational X-Ray Vision" to see the conflicts not expressed openly. Those are the ones that take the business down.

    Recommended additional reading regarding the action of "taking responsibility"

    I recommend a book named Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink. Actually, ownership is the word I use the most to describe the act of "taking responsibility" because the word "responsibility" is wrongly associated with guilt in the human psyche, but that's a story for another day.

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  • Andres D'Andrea
    Andres D'Andrea EN Basic, International Partner, MT Tester Posts: 490 Community Leader

    What do you think of the relationship between a united leadership and a transparent one? If there are disagreements on key issues, maybe the rest of the team should know.

    Unity and Transparency are deeply related and required if you want to implement a good leadership system and achieve organizational health. 

    I believe not all the stuff happening at the top has necessarily to distill to the lower ranks because usually that phenomenon creates more noise than anything productive.

    This is how I see it: the relationship between Unity and Transparency in a team is rooted in another important word, not present in your question @Miša:

    Trust

    This is how it works:

    Unity requires Trust from all members in the team.

    ⬆⬇

    Transparency provides Trust to all members in the team.

    It's a feedback loop, but what most leaders are not prepared for is the price the leader has to pay to achieve Transparency.

    Transparency is expensive in terms of:

    • Comfort: what a better way to take the whole team out of the comfort zone than to implement new procedures and new tech platforms that require the formation of new habits and acquisition of new skills. Trust me, it's easier said than done! 
    • Courage/Confidence: it takes a great deal of courage and self-confidence to put all your titles, badges, six-digit salary on the drawer, and then, hit the field to experience business operations first hand, like one more common worker of your team. Furthermore, the courage and self-confidence it takes to be the first at owning your mistakes, and lead by example.
    • Humility: additionally to courage and confidence, it takes a great deal of humility to build real relationships with your team members; then ask them: "how would you solve this and that?" and get an honest response from them. Requesting honest feedback and getting it for real is a quick way of overcoming difficult business challenges. Only true leaders are capable of pulling that off, in my experience.
    • Time: this all I've written so far takes time, that's why you don't achieve Transparency overnight. You achieve Transparency by building trust, implementing new habits, and developing better communication and soft skills. 

    In summary: Leaders who invest the time needed to get out of their pretty corporate office, and demonstrate to their staff the courage and humility needed to build true relationships with them on the field, will experience this:

    1. Team members that start trusting their leader
    2. A team united around the core values represented by the leader
    3. The achievement of Transparency in the organizational culture of the leader (I call this one the No-BS zone)

    Again, the order is the key to success here 😃 Said in another way: Leaders who fail at implementing a transparent leadership usually think the challenge they have to overcome is outside, when in reality, the challenge starts within themselves.

    2. I also really agree with the point about core principles that guide decision-making and that these should be more than simply catchy slogans. It's important to keep our company values at the center of what we do each day and this helps in a variety of ways (brand building, consistent messaging, etc.).

    Yes, exactly!

    The core principles that guide decision-making at all levels should be short phrases that carry identity within them. In my practice, those core principles should respond "why" questions of the leader's organization.

    For example, this is how I illustrate several non-negotiable core principles of BSF.company and the concepts behind them:

    Core Principle #1: We treat customers respectfully and kindly, all the time.

    Why?: Because the customers will remain loyal not because what we did, but because of how they felt when they came to us in times of stress. This core principle always applies, no matter how stressful the situation is, it always applies. Non-negotiable!

    Core Principle #2: All requests go through our Support Help Desk.

    Why?: Because we're the masters of follow-up, customer support, and information management. No human being is capable of managing an operation like ours through WhatsApp or Email. It's pretty simple: one request, one unique Ticket ID, one final solution. That's it. Non-negotiable!

    Core Principle #3: We respond as quickly as humanly possible.

    Why?: Because the time our competitors take to respond is the time it takes us to close the deal. (This one we got it actually from one of our customers, so it wasn't so hard to convince our team of this core truth. They heard it from the customer's mouth, 😁)

    Core principles help the leader in finding a good balance between two opposing forces present in any modern business operation:

    • The need for standardized procedures (order)
    • The need for flexibility to keep going when things don't go according to plan (chaos)

    Actually, I was talking precisely about this balance in the recent post titled 10 Tips To Help You Make Better Business Decisions.

    So, in summary: yes, core principles are great guidelines and are deeply related to corporate strategy and corporate identity. 

    Recommended additional reading on the subject of "corporate strategy"

    I recommend a book called The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene.

    Especially Strategy #6: Segment Your Forces: The Controlled-Chaos Strategy; where the author describes how Napoleon's troops conquered most of Europe by "understanding" his "core principles" and having the flexibility and freedom to operate according to the requirements of each situation. This is a masterpiece in the category of business management, in my opinion.

    3. I was wondering which of these principles you have mastered in the last 9 years?

    Fortunately, I've had the opportunity several times to implement the 4 principles described in this book and much more, but I wouldn't stretch it so far as to affirming "I've mastered any of these principles". That affirmation would void the learning process. 

    The truth for me is that every day brings its challenge, I personally:

    • Never stop reading
    • Never stop learning
    • Never stop facing challenges like it's the first time

    I thank every customer and every employer who gives me the chance to put all this into practice because it's one more chance for improving upon past achievements. One more chance at the bat, you know, like Baseball ⚾

    In summary, for me, there's no such thing as "too much organizational health". We can always improve a little more.

    The following screenshot from my MT account is an illustration of the last line… @Miša

    15 days have passed since the last time I mentioned within my team the importance of choosing proper comm channels and how crucial it is to promote "Transparency" within the team by "avoiding informational silos". So, it's an everyday battle. It never stops.

    I'm uncertain if you would enjoy this so-long response @Miša. I'm not a fan of boring people with long writings, but you asked for it:

    which of these principles you have mastered in the last 9 years?

    I definitely enjoyed writing it 😃

    Best regards.

    Andrés D'Andrea.

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  • Miša Hennin
    Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster Posts: 695 Community Admin

    Wow @Andres D'Andrea!

    Thanks for taking the time to answer so thoroughly.

    You're absolutely right - thanks for challenging my use of 'discrepancies'. Adding 'unresolved' makes a huge difference to what I was saying. Unresolved discrepancies make team cohesion near impossible. Discrepancies themselves aren't threatening - In fact, discrepancies can be healthy and drive teams forward towards new ideas and creative solutions.

    Very interesting insight about identifying the non-expressed conflicts being the real challenge. I can really imagine how difficult (and important) this is! I wonder what @Martha Camacho might say with regards to Mexico and the cultural trait you've mentioned.

    I wonder, have you come across the principles of non-violent communication? (I thought of this as I read your comments on teams, conflicts, body language etc.)

    Really great comment also on trust defining the relationship between unity and transparency - I'll take a look at your second comment in more depth later.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Best,

    Miša

  • Martha camacho
    Martha camacho MeisterLobster Posts: 14 Star Contributor

    Thank you @Miša for tagging me in such an interesting topic and thanks @Andres D'Andrea for the book recommendation and for all your valuable insights.

    While I agree that Mexican culture is indeed as rich as it is complex (as any other culture), I have had the opportunity to experience that companies that are guided by "corporate politics" instead of "corporate values", are sadly present everywhere in the world.

    However, I must also say that I've been fortunate enough to work for employers - in Mexico and internationally - that care about preparing you to become a great leader and to really focus on the 4 principles that are the core of the book recommendation. So I consider myself a very lucky person!

    One of the books that I have read that showed me the value of communication and transparency is Crucial Conversations - Tools for Talking when Stakes are High by Stephen R. Covey. If you want to know more about it, make sure to look for the Meister Book Club post in March! 😉

  • Andres D'Andrea
    Andres D'Andrea EN Basic, International Partner, MT Tester Posts: 490 Community Leader

    Hello @Miša, thanks for your comments and also for the link to NVC.

    I haven't seen their work yet, but by what I just read on their website, it surely seems interesting. I'll make sure to dig a bit more during my "reading time" and see what it's all about.

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  • Andres D'Andrea
    Andres D'Andrea EN Basic, International Partner, MT Tester Posts: 490 Community Leader

    Hi @Martha Camacho, indeed!

    Working in any company under good leadership and a great organizational culture is something to feel very lucky about. I've had that experience as well in several places (including Mexico) and I could even categorize it as a blessing.

    Thanks for the book recommendation. Looking forward to the Meister Book Club post in March! 😉

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  • Miša Hennin
    Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster Posts: 695 Community Admin

    Hi @Andres D'Andrea - definitely take a look! I think NVC is so brilliant. My cousin mentioned it to me many years ago and then I bought Rosenberg's book.

    The principles are so important I think everybody should learn them. The world would be a better place if we all knew how to communicate properly!

    Meister offered us an NVC workshop actually last year. I attended and thought it was fantastic. I definitely implemented some of the principles but it's hard to change patterns we've established over so many years. I think it'll be a constant process to actually be able to apply the theory naturally. (This is why I think it'd also be great for new parents to read the principles and try to bring children up with these methods of communication!).

  • Andres D'Andrea
    Andres D'Andrea EN Basic, International Partner, MT Tester Posts: 490 Community Leader

    Meister offered us an NVC workshop actually last year. I attended and thought it was fantastic.

    ☝ That's the kind of blessing I'm talking about!

    I think it'll be a constant process to actually be able to apply the theory naturally. (This is why I think it'd also be great for new parents to read the principles and try to bring children up with these methods of communication!).

    Agree @Miša, self-improvement is a never-ending process.

    I think of brining up kids as the process people in hardware design perform when they program a chip, you know, a microcontroller or something like that.

    Instead of code, the input for kids are habits. Good ones, or bad ones. They're always learning something, for sure.

    Instead of hours, or days, the process takes years.

    There's no such thing as "the perfect parent" though, so mistakes are allowed and those bad habits we all learned can be dismounted and replaced with good ones anyway 😜

    When I have kids, I'll teach them how to reprogram themselves to make up for my mistakes 😂

    All the best!

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  • Miša Hennin
    Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster Posts: 695 Community Admin

    Hi @Andres D'Andrea - great analogy 😅.

    Thanks for sharing...maybe a parenting project board will be needed, or a mind map brainstorming the good habits you want to instil 🤣.