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The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family

Applying Organizational Theory to the Family Organization

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The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family
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Author Patrick Lencioni is best known as a business author, focusing on making organizations more productive. In The Three Big Questions, Lencioni applies his organizational research to the most important organization in society: the family.

The Three Big Questions is written in the style of an extended fable, like the One Minute Manager books by Ken Blanchard. In the fable, Theresa and Jude Cousins, frustrated by the many demands on their family, pursue a journey trying to find a better way of family life. Theresa is a teacher who now is a stay at home mom raising her children. Jude has a successful freelance business consulting practice. As they move through this process of redefining family success, Jude applies some of his business consulting experience to the most important organization in his life—his family.

As I initially read the book, having some organizational consulting background myself, I wondered whether business principles could really be applied effectively to the nuclear family. So I read The Three Big Questions a little skeptically. But I came away convinced that Patrick Lencioni had found a way to do what he set out to do.

The Three Big Questions

As the Cousins family ponders Jude's business principles and begins to see some of them exemplified in successful families, they start to see patterns. They develop a model around what Lencioni calls the Three Big Questions.

  • What makes your family unique?

  • What is your family's top priority – your rallying cry – right now?

  • How do you talk about and use the answers to these questions?

Talking in detail about the three questions might discourage you from reading the book, which would be contrary to my goal. But having you think about these principles as you read The Three Big Questions might make it an even better experience.

How Can It Help Your Family?

I have always appreciated the "fable" approach to business books like the One Minute Manager and others. It helps me visualize the principles espoused better and see ways to implement them in the real world. The Three Big Questions had a similar practicality to it. Not just the formulaic, step-by-step guides that we see far too often, The Three Big Questions helped me think deeply and strategically about my family and our life's demands. And I could see as I read and thought how these tools might be applied in my own situation.

Jude and Theresa Cousins are engaging characters. Lencioni makes them come alive and leaves you, at the end of the book, wishing you had more friends like the Cousins. As they meet other families through this process, his vivid descriptions leave the reader feeling like they were there with them.

The Three Big Questions is also a relatively quick read. I spent about 3 hours or so reading and pondering the book over a week's time. And Lencioni's engaging style made it a book that was fun to read as well.

Most of all, I think the dominant feeling after reading Lencioni's Three Big Questions was hope. His recommendations are practical and do-able. They are easy to understand and remember and I found myself asking the Three Big Questions repeatedly as I decided how and when to say "yes" or "no" to many demands on my time.

Perhaps if that is the best we do, the book was worth the read.

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