In The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family (Reviews, June 23), Patrick Lencioni reveals how management techniques can bring greater serenity to harried, overextended families.
When did you become interested in business writing?
I began writing just over 10 years ago, somewhat by accident. I had come up with a theory about leadership and began sharing it with clients and colleagues, who encouraged me to write a book about my ideas. I decided not to write a traditional business book (I rarely finished the business books I bought!), but would try to write something that was as compelling as it was useful. I had taken a screenwriting class in college and, drawing on that, wrote a dialogue-intensive, plot-driven story to convey my theories. I have written six books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.
What impact do you expect to have with this book? Reading it, I got a sense that your goals and expectations were quite modest.
My hope is that readers of my book will take small but important steps toward creating more context in their lives. I use the term “small” to describe those steps because I think it's important to give people realistic goals; all too often, books and articles call upon families to radically change the way they live by adopting comprehensive and overly prescriptive programs. The result is that few families choose to implement the programs, and even fewer stick with them for any meaningful length of time. Ironically, the small steps I advocate can actually have a profound impact on families, because the nature of those steps is fundamental and not merely a cosmetic or tactical change. What I'm recommending can be truly transformational, not because it is complex or intricate, but precisely because it is simple and core to everything a family does.
Why did you decide to frame the book the way you did, through a fictional character, Theresa, and her efforts to create a long-term strategy for her family?
That the main character in my story is a mother is no accident. As important as fathers are to the health and success of families, it is often the mother who is key to initiating and implementing change on a day-to-day basis. That is true whether both parents work, or whether mom stays home. Also, I think that moms often experience the pain of a frantic family in a unique and heightened way. Their role as the keeper of the social and activity calendar in most families puts them in the position of greatest responsibility for, and victim of, a frenzied, overcommitted schedule. But as I've described in the story, the role that a father plays is critical, even if slightly secondary.