Category Archives: Organizational Change/Excellence

These books may offer models for explaining organizational behavior, particularly in times of change. They may also attempt to isolate and examine the characteristics and elements of organizational excellence.

The Advantage

The Advantage

Citation for Book:  Lencioni P.  The Advantage:  Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.  Jossey-Bass; 2012

Recommended by:  Todd Sorensen,

Star Rating (1-5): 5

Review:  If you are a fan of Patrick Lencioni’s previous work (Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Death by Meeting), you’ll appreciate the way Lencioni weaves concepts from multiple books into a focused discussion on what creates healthy organizations.  If you’ve not read any of Lencioni’s previous works, you’ll appreciate the opportunity to gather some of his most important insights from years as a business consultant in one book.

The strength of The Advantage is how Lencioni takes the critical concept of “organizational health,” which has not been covered with this specificity or depth in his previous books, and creates an effective narrative via a combination of familiar concepts with new insights and effective stories from the field.  Lencioni states that organizational health is about “an organization being whole, consistent and complete.”  That it is “healthy” when its management, operations, strategy and culture fit together and make sense.  Unfortunately over his many years consulting with both large and small organizations, Lencioni has observed that achieving organizational health is illusive.  And in his experience, achieving organizational health by integrating these dimensions provides the foundation that establishes a key competitive advantage in the market sector of that organization.

While The Advantage does bring into its narrative several familiar Lencioni concepts, its notable for those who will have read prior books that The Advantage does not feel like a retread of that material.  It doesn’t seem redundant.  The focus is on collating key concepts in a way that provides guidance to a reader to address larger organizational issues than what had been the focus of those individual works previously.  It adds additional meaning and applicability to the concepts of team development, vision and organizational communication, allowing The Advantage to stand on its own with a distinctive message.

One thing that will quickly become clear to those who’ve read other books by Lencioni – The Advantage does not employ the fictional story narrative style.  This book is written in the first person from Lencioni’s perspective.  While the fictional story style was effective in illustrating key concepts and strategies, it doesn’t feel like it would be an effective writing strategy for the diversity of material presented here.


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The Practice of Adaptive Leadership

Heifetz R, Grashow A, and Linsky M.  The Practice of Adaptive Leadership.  Boston, MA:  Harvard Business School Publishing, 2009.

Recommended by:  Todd Sorensen, U of MN CoP

Star Rating: 4 (Really Liked It)

Review:  “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership” is the applied version of Heifetz and Linsky’s book “Leadership on the Line.”  While many audiences can take away important lessons from this book, it is most specifically written to positional leaders in large organizations.

The book is sequenced across 5 themes:  1) Introduction to Adaptive Leadership,  2) Diagnosing the System,  3) Mobilizing the System,  4) See Yourself as a System and 5) Deploy Yourself.  Each section moves into concepts and strategies focused on addressing the difficult work of leading adaptive change in organizations.

Most of the book operates at level that would be well beyond what would typically be covered in leadership development coursework for pharmacy students.  At the University of Minnesota, our work with Adaptive Leadership has been primarily to ensure that students can recognize the difference between adaptive challenges and technical problems.  We also highlight the importance of perspective (concept of “Getting on the Balcony”).  From this book, we are currently only using the second chapter (“The Theory Behind the Practice”) as a “just in time” reading for senior students enrolled in a leadership emphasis program while they are engaged in an effort where they have assumed responsibility for leading change.

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Filed under Instructor Resources, Organizational Change/Excellence, Pharmacy Student Electives-Advanced

Our Iceberg Is Melting

Kotter, J.  Rathgerber, H.  Our Iceberg Is Melting:  Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions.  New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2005.

Recommended by: Kristin Janke, U of MN, CoP

Star Rating: 5 (It’s Great)

Review:  We’ve used this book with pharmacists and pharmacy students since 2007.  It’s a fable that illustrates the process of successful organizational change.  It’s readily available at any bookstore/online vendor and it can be read in 1 to 1-1/2 hours.   Any reader can relate to the penguin characters, which we have all experienced (e.g. The Professor, No-No, Buddy).  We can also relate to the anxiety experienced by the colony as their life is about to change dramatically.  Keep in mind that the principles are illustrated; they’ll need to be discussed, reinforced and expanded upon.  But, this book serves as a great introduction.


Filed under Organizational Change/Excellence, Pharmacy Students-All

The Leadership Engine: How Winning Companies Build Leaders at Every Level

Tichy, N. The Leadership Engine: How Winning Companies Build Leadership at Every Level. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 2002.

Recommended by Jenelle Sobotka

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Leading Change

Kotter, J. Leading Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

Recommended by Kristin Janke, U of MN, CoP

Star Rating: 3 (Liked It)

Review:  I don’t give this one to students.  This is Kotter’s most “academic” book.  As such, it is more of a rigorous read than Heart of Change, which uses more cases.  And, it’s definitely not as approachable as Our Iceberg is Melting.  I think of this as an instructor’s resource.  It’s a book for those that like to go back to the beginning, like a more traditional read or need a more detailed understanding of Kotter’s work.

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The Heart of Change: Real-Life Storiesof How People Change Their Organization

Kotter, J. and Cohen, D. The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organization. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

Recommended by Kristin Janke, U of MN, CoP

Star Rating: 4 (Really Liked It)

Review:  This book is an excellent extension on Our Iceberg is Melting.  I especially like the discussion around See-Feel-Change vs. Think-Analyze-Change.  Some of the cases, particular Glove on the Boardroom Table, have been helpful to us in class.  So, you may want to consider this as an Instructor’s Resource to help with how you supplement Iceberg.  We also use it as an optional reading for students.  It can be helpful for students to read Iceberg and then read this a year or so later to remind themselves of concepts and expand their knowledge further.

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Filed under Instructor Resources, Organizational Change/Excellence, Pharmacy Student Electives-Advanced

A Sense of Urgency

Kotter, J. A Sense of Urgency. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

Recommended by Kristin Janke, U of MN CoP

Star Rating: 2 (It was OK)

Review:  I appreciated the definitions the author provides for urgency, complacency and false urgency.  In addition, the strategies he offers make sense and expand on Kotter’s previous works.  In places, it almost got too concrete and practical.  Since I wasn’t leading in an case of extreme lack of urgency at the time of reading, I couldn’t apply it immediately.  If I would have been in the midst of an urgency crisis, I think I would have felt differently.  I recommend this to instructors or advanced pharmacy students that are already familiar with Kotter’s work and are leading withing an organization or team that just doesn’t want to face reality.  It is very focused and specific.

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Filed under Organizational Change/Excellence, Pharmacy Student Electives-Advanced