Book Report: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: a Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni uses a fictional tale to impart some serious leadership and management lessons.

The five dysfunction are….drumroll….absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.

My biggest complaint/annoyance with this book and with MANY other leadership/management books is that any research base that informs this book is completely obscured. Sure, we learn from doing and we learn from the experience of others, but without any proof that these five, dysfunctions are THE five dysfunctions, this book is too reductive for me.  Plus, the presentation of the dysfunctions in a fable further obscures any research or evidence. The last few pages describe, fable-free, each dysfunction and offers suggestions to remedy each dysfunction. I found those last few pages more useful than the rest of the book.

There are positive elements….

In the fable, the CEO of the company brings together her senior leadership team.  They do not see themselves as a team but as heads of separate departments and we are led to believe that their lack of cohesion is the reason for the company’s floundering.

The CEO begins by asking these critical questions about her team:

  • Do your team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
  • Are your team meetings compelling and productive?
  • Does your team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
  • Do your team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
  • Do your team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?

Once she ascertained the answers to those questions she was able to build their sense of team work, as a senior management team. The positive changes trickled down into their respective departments.

Of course, books like this are only helpful if we put them into practice. Do you think you could have an open conversation with your direct reports and use the questions above as a way to garner more information about how they see their team? Have you identified any key dysfunctions in your team? Could they be tied to any one of the five dysfunctions that Lencioni highlights? If so, that can be a great place for a diagnosis and thoughtful action.

This is an easy read, it only took me a few hours to read it all.  Again, the suggestions for what to as a manager if your team is struggling are useful but aren’t particularly novel.

All in all, I’d suggest passing on this one in favor of some good online research…like this resource on building trust or this one on fostering healthy conflict. Better yet, I can give you and your organization an engaging presentation about the dysfunctions and offer you tools to help build your team!

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