Anyone who has ever worked in an unhealthy organization—and almost everyone has—knows the misery of dealing with politics, dysfunction, confusion, and bureaucracy. As much as we enjoy making jokes about these artifacts of organizational plight, there is no denying that they exact a significant toll.
The financial cost of having an unhealthy organization is undeniable: wasted resources and time, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, and customer attrition. The money an organization loses as a result of these problems, and the money it has to spend to recover from them, is staggering.
And that’s only the beginning of the problem. When leaders of an organization are less than honest with one another, when they put the needs of their departments or their careers ahead of the needs of the greater organization, when they are misaligned, confused, and inconsistent about what is important, they create real anguish for real human beings. And they experience that anguish themselves, too.
Aside from the obvious impact this has within the organization, there is a larger social cost. People who work in unhealthy organizations eventually come to see work as drudgery. They view success as being unlikely or, even worse, out of their control. This leads to a diminished sense of hope and lower self-esteem, which leaks beyond the walls of the companies where they work, into their families where it often contributes to deep personal problems, the effects of which may be felt for years. This is nothing short of a tragedy, and a completely avoidable one.
I point all this out only so that we don’t underestimate the cost of allowing our organizations to remain unhealthy, and, more important, so that we fully grasp the opportunity that lies before us. Turning an unhealthy company into a healthy one will not only create a massive competitive advantage and improved bottom line, it will also make a real difference in the lives of the people who work there. And for the leaders who spearhead those efforts, it will be one of the most meaningful and rewarding endeavors they will ever pursue.
Excerpt from The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni