The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

by Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a fable about the company’s new CEO, Kathryn Petersen, who begins to wonder if she is the right person for the job.  Her challenge is to build a team which demonstrates trust, understands conflict, commits to collective decision making, and holds one another accountable for optimum results.  For the first few days, Kathryn begins to say little while making notable observations of a dysfunctional team.

An offsite facility has been arranged for their initial meeting.  The tension among the staff appears to be at an all time high.  Discussions are held with few or no decisions being made.  Complaining and reading e-mails seem to be underwritten agenda items.  Staff members come into view as static, blaming, and complacent. 

Kathryn realizes her team is fractured like a broken arm or leg.  She reflects on the words her husband once shared about broken bones– ‘Fixing them is painful, and sometimes a rebreak is needed to heal correctly.’   Very pointedly, Kathryn provides the staff with the company’s mission to achieve results.  She becomes relentless identifying issues/areas to be addressed.  The company’s new CEO proceeds in a purposeful and intentional manner with the five reasons why teams are dysfunctional. 

With no limitations, the first dysfunction, absence of trust, is announced and analyzed.  Lesson Learned:The foundation of real teamwork is trust. There can be no holdback of mistakes, weaknesses, and concerns.  There is no reprisal.

Kathryn reminds the staff they have more resources, more experiences, better technology and more connections than any of their competitors, and yet at least two were being more progressive in the market.  Why so?

The second dysfunction Kathryn provides is fear of conflict.  When there is fear to pushback, artificial harmony exists.  Within this distrust there is minimal open constructive dialogue or sharing.  Lesson Learned:  The functional team allows members to be heard, their input considered, and responded to.

The third dysfunction presented is the lack of commitment.  The importance of conflict was reiterated.  Lesson Learned:  Debating clears the path for team members to commit to a plan or a decision, and for the team to clearly buy in.

The fourth dysfunction imparted is avoidance of accountabilityLesson Learned:  Each team member holds one another accountable for what is to be accomplished, for high standards of performance, and behavior.  The team begins to rebuild as they understand the importance of goal clarity, buy-in, and accountability.

Kathryn points out the next dysfunction as inattention to results.  The two questions posed:  Does the team member seek out individual recognition and attention at the expense of results?  How much is each team member focusing on collective results–the goals of the entire team?   Lesson Learned:  Functional teams succeed when trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and a focus on results are never compromised. 

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a true north experience for envisioning and establishing effective teams. The team’s full potential is evident as team members demonstrate trust, engage in conflict, commit to group decisions, hold their peers accountable and focus on results.  

(Review by Betty Flurry, GE Mentor)

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