Thursday, October 23, 2008


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a unique read in that the author, Patrick Lencioni, had developed a fictional company with fictional employees to take us through the lessons he has learned through his own years of experience.

Because of the fictional set-up, the book can be a little slow or difficult to follow. But if you hang in there in each section, Lencioni leads you right to the point he is trying to make in each area.

And if there is any doubt as to the priorities of a Lencioni built company, it is told in the very first sentence of the introduction:

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

A very brief review of the dysfunctions includes:

Dysfunction 1: Absence of Trust
In the context of building a team, trust is in the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.

Dysfunction 2: Fear of Conflict
All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship and certainly businesses. It is important to distinguish productive ideological conflict from destructive fighting and interpersonal politics.

Dysfunction 3: Lack of Commitment
Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even when complete agreement is impossible. They understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered. Great teams ensure that everyone’s ideas are genuinely considered which then creates a willingness to rally around whatever decision is ultimately made by the group.

Dysfunction 4: Avoidance of Accountability
The essence of this dysfunction is the unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations. Members of great teams overcome these natural inclinations, opting instead to “enter the danger” with one another.

Dysfunction 5: Inattention to Results
The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance.

Besides showing examples of the dysfunctions with the fictional company, Lencioni also spends detailed time at the end of the book evaluating each dysfunction. He talks about the best way for the team to handle each dysfunction including a section on the role of the leader for each.

Lencioni utilizes a pyramid to develop the five dysfunctions and while we can not do justice to it in this short review, here is a glimpse into each dysfunction.