Six Simple Questions to Create Clarity from Pat Lencioni

August 22, 2012

For the first time in the history of CARE for AIDS, I have the privilege of onboarding two new team members. Prior to these hires, Nick was really the only direct report that I had personally added to our U.S. team, but he already had two years of CFA experience in Kenya. Now, we have hired two new team members that we will introduce to you shortly. I get to help these two dynamic young ladies understand the history of the organization, our values, expectations, roles and responsibilities, strategies, norms, etc. When I started to run through this list in my mind, I started to feel overwhelmed by that responsibility. “Where do you begin?”

Pat Lencioni recently wrote a book called “The Advantage.” In short, the advantage he is referring to in the title is organizational health. In this day and age it is hard for an organization to differentiate itself on “Being Smart.” The world moves too fast to maintain an edge in areas of technology, marketing, strategy, etc., but we can stand apart by “Being Healthy.”

Lencioni talks about four disciplines to build a healthy organization. The second of those disciplines is “Create Clarity.” He offers us six simple questions that every team member must reach clarity and alignment on to avoid confusion, frustration, and discouragement. This process of hiring new staff has forced me to revisit these questions to make sure that I have 100% clarity on them, so that I can, in turn, communicate them clearly to others.


  1. Why do we exist?   Check out my previous blog to understand our core mission.
  2. How do we behave?   What are the one or two values that are so foundational to who you are that you won’t compromise them at any cost? In Pat’s example, he told the story of a disgruntled Southwest Airlines passenger who was not amused by the antics during the safety briefing on the flight and sent a complaint letter. Humor has always been a value of Southwest, and Herb Kelleher, the former CEO, sent this lady a simple response saying, “We will miss you.”
  3. What do we do?    Simply, does everyone understand the organization and its work? Learn more about our model here.
  4. How will we succeed?   This involves creating and agreeing on a set of strategies to achieve the organization’s long-term vision.
  5. What is most important, right now?   The team must be unified around the short-term goals and the tactics needed to accomplish them.
  6. Who must do what?    Some might argue that, for leaders, this is the most important question to get right. We must clearly assign and define the roles and responsibilities of our team.

Lastly, it is important to remember that this process of creating clarity doesn’t just happen once when you add a person to your team. It must be reinforced regularly. Samuel Johnson once said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” I have a tendency to under-communicate because redundancy seems inefficient, but redundancy is very necessary to avoid confusion in an organization. To paraphrase Pat , “If your employees can’t do a good impression of you, you aren’t communicating your values enough.”

Which of these questions do you need to gain the most clarity around? Visit Pat Lencioni’s site to learn more.