Patrick Lencioni chose a catchy title for his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. Although the title and the author’s model focus on some negatives, the book is actually a positive account of how to build effective teams.
The book begins with the story of Kathryn Peterson, the new CEO of DecisionTech observing her staff. DecisionTech’s problem is that while the company “has more cash, more experienced executives, better technology, and more connections than any of their competitors,” DecisionTech is behind two competitors in the market. Peterson’s objective is to create an effective team.
Lencioni uses this fable to demonstrate his model, which is covered in detail in the last forty pages of the book. It is a practical guide for someone building a team or participating on a team. The five elements of his pyramid shaped model include the following:
The first and basic dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members. Team members have to be open and vulnerable to each other to build the foundation of trust.
His second dysfunction actually builds on the first: fear of conflict. Unfiltered debate and conflict over ideas are necessary to obtain real, relevant outcomes.
Lack of commitment is the third dysfunction. Team members have to buy-into decisions and action plans.
Avoidance of accountability or not holding peers to the high standards needed by the group is the fourth dysfunction.
And lastly, inattention to results becomes the end result of the earlier dysfunctions. Team members are focused on their individual needs above the collective goals of the team.
While Lencioni’s model seems intuitively straight forward, building cohesive teams is not. From some former experience with teams, I know that top management has to allocate time, resources and continual support for effective teams to develop. There are other factors such as knowledge of group dynamics and the stability of group members that also impact success. All in all, Lencioni’s emphasis on trust as the foundation of effective teams is simple and clear and his model provides a practical roadmap in building effective teams that get results.
The book is a practical, easy read on the topic of effective teams.