The Advantage

Seeking out a healthy organization will make a difference in your life and practice.

By Patrick Lencioni | Remarks | Summer 2012


In the field of medicine, there is quite obviously considerable time spent on addressing the health of patients, but perhaps there is less time spent on the health of the organization providing the care.

Finding an organization where productivity and morale flourish and politics and confusion are minimized is essential to the well-being of any medical professional. Because healthy organizations typically out-perform their counterparts, a healthy hospital or medical facility will attract and retain the best doctors, nurses and staff and ultimately provide better care.

The environment

You may already know how it feels when your workplace seems unproductive and the employees seem undervalued. Understanding what organizational health is and what it looks like can help you evaluate future employers and find a functional, effective work environment.

According to our work and the model found in The Advantage, healthy organizations:

1. Build a cohesive leadership team. The first step is all about getting the leaders of the organization to behave in a functional, cohesive way. If the people responsible for running an organization, whether that organization is a corporation, a department within that corporation, a start-up company, a restaurant, a school or a hospital, are behaving in dysfunctional ways, then that dysfunction will cascade into the rest of the organization and prevent organizational health. And yes, there are concrete steps a leadership team can take to prevent this.

2. Create clarity. The second step for building a healthy organization is ensuring that the members of that leadership team are intellectually aligned around six simple but critical questions (see page 68). Leaders need to be clear on topics such as why the organization exists and its most important priority for the next few months. Leaders must eliminate any gaps that may exist between them so that people one, two or three levels below have complete clarity about what they should do to make the organization successful.

3. Over-communicate clarity. Only after these first two steps are in process (behavioral and intellectual alignment) can an organization undertake the third step: over-communicating the answers to the six critical questions. Leaders of a healthy organization constantly—and I mean constantly—repeat themselves and reinforce what is true and important. They always err on the side of saying too much, rather than too little. This quality alone sets leaders of healthy organizations apart from others.

4. Reinforce clarity. Finally, in addition to over-communicating, leaders must ensure that the answers to the six critical questions are reinforced repeatedly using simple human systems. That means any process that involves people, from hiring and firing to performance management and decision-making, is designed in a custom way to intentionally support and emphasize the organization’s uniqueness.

Joining a healthy organization early in your career will greatly increase your chances for growth and development and ultimately job satisfaction.

Assessing the culture

Before you even consider a new position, the interviewing process can be very revealing. Here are some of the signs to look for to help gauge an organization’s health.

1. Do the people interviewing you appear to be on the same page about where the hospital is headed, who they are and what they value? If you interview with more than one person and they are not on the same page regarding the hospital’s goals, direction and culture, it could be an indication the company is not focused on organizational health.

2. Does the interviewer seem interested in getting to know you beyond your specialty or skill set? Great organizations are looking for employees (or in your case physicians) that fit their culture from the executive suite down to the cashier. If they are not asking questions beyond résumé skills, that may be a red flag.

3. Does the organization appear to have a process for bringing in new doctors? Is there any kind of orientation where the leaders lay out expectations, talk about the culture and share business plans and goals? If the hospital does offer this to new physicians, this could be a good sign that the organization is trying to foster a healthy culture.

There are few organizations that have a more important mission than those in the medical field. Finding an organization where employees thrive and politics are minimal can literally make all the difference.

Patrick Lencioni is the author of 10 business books including the new release The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, and the national best-seller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He is founder and president of The Table Group, a management consulting firm.


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