The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002).

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Synopsis

In Patrick Lencioni’s The Fives Dysfunctions of a Team, we are taken through the journey of the challenges and tribulations that a newly appointed CEO faces. Written as a management fable, the book is set in a high-growth technology company that is suffering from a significant fall from grace. The company was once touted as the Silicon Valley darling, with the most talented leadership and technical team. Within two years, the story of the darling unravelled, paving way for the Board Chairman to appoint a new CEO, Kathryn Petersen.

Through the journey of Petersen, the author dispels upon us the five dysfunctions of a team. Additionally, we are given a glimpse into how to address such issues within our own organizations.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Dysfunction #1 – Absence of trust

At the heart of all dysfunction within teams is an absence of trust. This lack of trust leads to a lot of unproductive behaviours and drives defensiveness. These behaviours become time-consuming to address.

For example, without trust, leaders will be reluctant to ask one another for help. Even worse, they will be reluctant to provide it. This becomes a critical waste of time as leaders spin their wheels trying to resolve issues on their own, or worse, not resolve them at all.

Dysfunction #2 – Fear of conflict

Without trust, there is no open communication. Thus, teams will revert to performative and fake harmony. Leaders will not express their opinions and discussion will diminish. Groupthink will ensue as dissent will not be available. As a result, poor choices will be made as there is no robust discussion and debate.

Productive teams are able to make decisions in a joint and transparent manner. More importantly, when there is trust among team members, there is confidence in the decisions that are being made. It’s important to note, though, that this does not always mean consensus. Instead, productive teams with high levels of trust will support one another in the decision made despite differing opinions.

Dysfunction #3 – Lack of commitment

Lack of commitment is a result of individuals not participating in discussions. Individuals who contribute their ideas and opinions in debate are more likely to buy into the process. However, if groups are not debating and having healthy discussions, it becomes difficult to build buy-in. Furthermore, lack of commitment creates ambiguity for the team.

Dysfunction #4 – Avoidance of accountability

Avoidance of accountability is a result of a lack of commitment. When team members do not fully buy-in, they end up deflecting their responsibilities. Progress can only come if it is measured. And it can only be measured if it is clear to all team members who is responsible for what and when it needs to be done by. Leaders vocalizing their expectations can set the tone for accountability.

Dysfunction #5 – Inattention to Results

Teams with committed members will see results. This is because committed members will put team results first. When there is low buy-in with a team, members are less likely to care about the results and are more likely to look out for their own interests.

When designing the rewards for an organization, leaders should ensure there is alignment between all members by rewarding team results.

Key takeaways

  • The five dysfunctions of a team are the absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, and inattention to results.
  • Trust is the foundation of strong, productive, and cohesive teams. Without trust, there is no capacity to fix the other dysfunctions.
  • Leaders need to be the ones to set the example to rectify these dysfunctions.

Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni is an American author specializing in books on business and leadership. He brings experience from a prestigious consulting firm, Bain & Company, along with VP experience at Oracle Corporation and Sybase. In addition to writing, he is also the founder of Table Group, a management consulting firm that specializes in organizational health.

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