The Four Disciplines of Organizational Health

I recently participated in a panel discussion for a local ICF group where one of the attendees mentioned the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.  Lencioni, a bestselling author, speaker and consultant with over two decades of experience working with CEOs and their executive teams, is one of my favorite authors and I have found his principles to be effective in the development of organizations of any size.

Lencioni believes that focusing on organizational health is important for any business.  He explains that “an organization is healthy when it’s whole,  consistent and complete, when its management, operations, strategy and culture fit together and make sense.”  The question is…how can an organization become healthy?

To answer, Lencioni created the Four Disciplines Model:

1. Build a Cohesive Leadership Team

When building a cohesive leadership team, it is important to consider the size of the team (between 3-10) and who should and should not be on it. As explained in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, it begins with trust, which starts with being genuinely vulnerable to one another. The team must be able to have productive, unfiltered conflict and leave meetings with clear and specific agreements. They hold each other accountable to commitments and behaviors and put the leadership team’s commitments ahead of their own departmental teams.

2. Create Clarity

The leadership team of a healthy organization has complete clarity and agreement, and is passionate about the reason the organization exists. They are clearly aligned around a strategy that helps define success and goals, and they take ownership of that strategy. They understand each other’s roles and responsibilities, and are comfortable questioning each other’s work.

A key component to achieving this clarity is centered on answering the following six questions:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is most important right now?
  6. Who must do what?

When members of the leadership team rally around the answers to these questions, it drastically increases the likelihood of creating a healthy organization.

3. Over-communicate Clarity

In a healthy organization, the leadership team always leaves meetings with complete clarity and specific agreements about what goals and strategies to communicate to their employees. They then regularly remind their people so they are able to accurately articulate the organization’s mission, values, strategic anchors, and goals.

4. Reinforce Clarity

All new hires must be selected based on the company’s values and taught the six elements of clarity. All managers have a simple and consistent system for setting and reviewing goals and progress with their people. Anyone who does not fit the values of the company are managed out. Poor performers who do fit the values are provided coaching and assistance so they can succeed, and compensation and rewards are built around the values and goals of the company.

I have been reading and using Lencioni’s approach to business for over 10 years and it has helped me grow personally and professionally. I urge you to do yourself a favor and apply these lessons to give your company the healthy advantage it needs to achieve superior business results. 

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  1. Russ Knight's avatar
    Russ Knight
    | Permalink
    I talk to companies all the time that are either struggling with the lack of application of these principals or enjoying the results of successfully embracing this model.

    We can all think of companies we have seen or been a part of that have failed in all or part of this - primarily around communication and clarity.

    Thanks for posting this John!

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