Book Reviews

Book Reviews


Book Review: Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, by Patrick Lencioni


By Stephen Northcutt
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

Rob Vandenbrink recommended a few Patrick Lencioni books and this was the first one I read. If you are taking it on a plane it is only about a two hour read. I saw a review on Amazon that says, "concise, compelling, simple, and wise look at the role of a leader in an organization." and that describes the book very well. The author illustrates his points with a story that he calls a fable, even though the characters in a fable are usually animals or similar and these characters are people in a business. The book's story is about a technology consulting company run by a very effective and wise CEO, Rich O'Connor. Early in the story Rich reached the breaking point trying to do it all and had what the author refers to as a "Desparate Epiphany". He did something every leader should do and asked himself the question:

What is the one thing I do that really matters to the firm?


From there O'Connor developed and lived by four disciplines which form and maintain the health of the organization's culture. That is a key to the book, one of the first things Lencioni brings up when we jump out of the story into the restatement of the principles, organizational health, essentially taking the fun out of dysfunctional.

The four disciplines are:
  • Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team. This is the kind of stuff you read about in Good to Great, vigorous debate, followed by a close sense of teamwork when the time for debate is done.
  • Create Organizational Clarity, they don't recommend mission statements, but in my world this would be where mission, vision, value statements and doctrine come in.
  • Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity, this reminds me of the Jack Welch leadership book when he was trying to introduce Six Sigma at GE and he had to tell em and tell em and tell em every chance he got to share his vision with the company.
  • Reinforce Organizational Clarity Through Human Systems, this is where the HR stuff comes into play, hiring profiles, we want to hire people that are like this. In the book there was a lot of focus on performance reviews and that is important and then rewards and recognition.
Good stuff, good reminder. I know we don't do enough of this at SANS and we have been adding headcount so we need to do more of it. The book came along just at the right time. I think I will go seek a quiet place and ask the question,
"What is the one thing I do that really matters to the firm?"