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Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Sam Bridegroom  |  Posted Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 at 11:34:27 AM

Image:Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Format I Used:
Short Version Review:
 There are an amazing number of parallels in this book to many of the places I've either worked or contracted. It's a quick read and listen (only 3:45), but it points out ways to remove what makes teams not function properly.

Building teams is an art and not a science, but there are some hallmark components of successful teams. We've all seen those buzzwords: collaboration, communication, yada, yada, yada. What this book does is point out five key elements that break down the team dynamic:
  • Lack of Trust
  • Fear of Conflict
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Avoidance of Accountability
  • Inattention to Results

Even though this book was released in 2002, it's really interesting how the concepts it addresses exist in so many organizations. It's also interesting to note (through the telling of the tale in the book) just how important effective team composition and operation is to the success of organizations. The presentation of these elements is done by telling a story - a very realistic portrayal of a fictional company. The CEO and had been removed, and the Chairman had someone in mind to run to fill the job. This incoming CEO didn't have much in the way of industry experience, but she had a track record of building effective teams. It's clear to the new CEO that there are some serious teamwork issues - and by addressing them, the company would stand a better shot at success over the long haul.

The "long haul" is an important concept - because sometimes what's right for the long haul may mean some discomfort and periodic rough patches along the way:
  • Sometimes we have to say "no" to things, because they distract from the team's ability to function effectively.
  • Conflict is not always bad, if managed appropriately. We can agree to disagree - but the exchange of conflicting ideas is critical to overall team growth and meeting collective objectives.
  • Everyone has an opportunity to choose to be part of and contribute to a team. For those that do choose to be a team person, there's a certain amount of "drinking the Kool-Aid" that needs to happen in the way of upholding common goals and direction. That's where the strength of great teams really shines.
  • If someone feels very strongly that they are no longer a fit (given a clear direction by the team leader), we shouldn't stand in their way should they choose to explore other opportunities.
  • Sometimes it's necessary to exercise "addition by subtraction" - a disruptive team member who fights at every opportunity and refuses to consider the greater good is not a team member, but rather a constant barrier to success. I have been on both sides of this situation, both voluntarily and involuntarily, and can tell you this is an important concept.

I know, this seems like a dark tale, when in fact it really isn't. What this story/book does do is show very clearly the destructive forces that inhibit team building. Once the team is built and running on all cylinders, there's a lot more effort spent on how to keep it running that way, emphasizing the positive aspects of the team and what makes it tick.

I've had the good fortune in my career of working on the kind of team of which dream situations are made. I was doubly fortunate that it was the first team to which I was ever assigned. When I look back at it, none of the five dysfunctions listed above were ever a part of the environment. It was wonderful. Now, was it hard to get used to the idea of conflict so early in my career? Absolutely - but I learned how critical it was to participate, to listen and to be heard, because only then could the best decisions me made to meet team objectives.

This should be on the shelf of any manager-type person. I can just about guarantee there will be something that feels and sounds awfully familiar to a situation an individual might be navigating.

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