“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage”
What a refreshing way to give us “The 5 dysfunctions of a team” in a business world: through an astutely written fable. Lencioni’s writing is insightful, easy to read, and hard to forget. The conversational style, which is not usually my favorite, is done professionally and accurately of the business environment
This was a reading assignment from work. Funny enough, at the time I had management, which while responsible for the dysfunctions of the team, was not too shy to admit to it either. The amusement of our own situation aside, this is a really good book to bring a team back on track.
Our fable is about Katherine Peterson who takes the reins of DecisionTech as the new CEO. She is the least popular choice for the position, and lucky for her, the Chairman of the Board considers her the right choice, against other odds. Where Katherine lacks in technology and Silicon Valley experience, she more than makes up for in true leadership skills. We follow her and her combative team to a two-day executive workshop of invaluable sessions that transform the behavior and approach of team members to their job.
The conversations are eerily accurate of what typically takes place between directors, executives, and busy people in Corporate America. Katherine’s subtle attacks of the team’s standard priorities are shocking to her staff and amusing to the reader. As the team settles into the meeting, and dialog flows, the dysfunctions unfold one by one. Katherine calls them out, for they do not recognize the standard behavior as anything but normal. She explains how a successful team should operate by first presenting a problem, querying everyone’s input, and pointing out the obvious flaw in the current approach. The dynamics of the team also unfold, and the true personalities come to surface. Katherine already knows the risk in this process: Some make it and some leave the team. It is the cost of building a strong foundation with the right team members.
Reading is the best pastime for an active mind! If you like to see the other book reviews, check the index of In Print.
Obvious as it sounds, it is a forgetful notion more often than one would like to imagine: Trust is the foundation of a strong effective team, and therefore, lack of trust is the first dysfunction. Lencioni lays out the five dysfunctions for us clearly:
- The first dysfunction is an Absence of Trust. This happens when team members are not open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses.
- The second dysfunction is Fear of Conflict. Teams without trust are unable to engage in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead they resort to veiled discussions with carefully self-monitored comments.
- The third dysfunction is Lack of Commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members cannot take ownership of decisions despite a faint agreement during meetings, and hence, not able to commit to the outcomes.
- The fourth dysfunction is Avoidance of Accountability. If there is no commitment to an agreed clear plan of action, the most motivated and passionate people even hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
- The fifth dysfunction is Inattention to Results, which might result in team members putting their personal needs for advancement above the objectives of working together towards team goals
These may seem trivial, common sense even. Try to apply them to your work environment, especially with the least likable team member and you will find it is no easy task. It tests all of us and it has to be done by each team member to yield any worthy result. Success for a team should not be carried on the shoulders of the most accomplished. Success is carried equally by every one, with each leveraging their point of strength toward the final outcome.