The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

Author: Patrick M. Lencioni
Publisher: Jossey-Bass
Length: 184 Pages

We have another easy to read book from the author that is written in a fable format containing many simple but effective Leadership and Executive learning points. A fictional story is unique because it can engage the reader in a distant situation and create direct correlations from similarities which do not point directly at people or events in your organizational culture. The 3rd person fable allows the reader to construct new meaning not currently in existence simply by sharing in a story that is definitely not about them.

The first three-quarters of this book consists of a fictional account of the "Telegraph Partners" technology consulting company run by the CEO Rich O'Connor. Mr. O'Connor operates his company according to four personal disciplines which create and reinforce the organization's culture and community of practice. In fact everyone in the company knows and lives the meaning of the disciplines and understands how they drive positive organizational behavior and accountability.

The four disciplines are:

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

The fable is built around two competitive companies (Greenwich Consultants and Telegraph Partners) in the San Francisco Bay area technology consulting business from the perspective of their CEOs. These two men established their consulting companies at about the same time immediately after graduating from the same business school. Both CEOs are successful but Rich O'Connor's organization seems to get better profits, do more with less and keep a workforce that is dedicated to organizational success. The story takes off when Mr. O'Connor's organization hires someone who refuses to believe in the four disciplines and ultimately is asked to leave the company.

CEO Vince Green from Greenwich Consultants Company recruits that employee to learn the secret of the disciplines but only enough to have him explain how the four disciplines are woven into the culture of the company. They are connected to illustrate how they provide positive direction especially when they are built upon in rank order. The fable does a great job illustrating the meaning and application of these four disciplines in a way which is enlightening. In the end the enlightenment comes to Vince Green that Rich O'Connor has established a simple, easy and effective pattern for Leadership and Executive success.

When the reader finishes the fable they arrive at the section called "Putting the Disciplines into Practice: This is a "Summary and Self Assessment." (p 139 - p 180) This section of the book contains the precise information about the disciplines and how to understand not only their impact individually but how to use them as a pallet for building an effective and efficient team. Many of the ideas or concepts are ones that you have heard before but they are packaged in a format that can be shared constructively with individuals and teams. It is up to the reader to implement the learnings and establish the path - the story only provides a roadmap to success.

Published In: December 2006, In2In Thinking Network