Book Reviews

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Author: Patrick Lencioni
Publisher: Jossey Bass, a Wiley imprint
ISBN 0-7879-6075-6
Reviewer: Basil P. Rouskas, CEO, NovAspire, Inc.
Stars: 4

Stars ratings:
1=Don’t bother
2=Limited value
3=You should read it
4=You should read it, buy it and revisit it often

What is this book about?

This is a book about the causes of poor performance in any team. Although the book is about a senior executive team, its subject applies to any team—functional, department, business or cross functional.

Who should read it?

  • Executives, Managers, Supervisors, Project Managers who lead teams.
  • People who are team members.
  • Consultants and facilitators who help team

In short -- everyone

Why should he/she read it?

Because of three reasons:

  1. It addresses the core causes of non performing teams in simple, yet not simplistic, language / model
  2. It is written in a fiction style (the author calls it “fable”), that is engaging and fast moving and hard to put down—it took me 4hours to read it once I started it
  3. It provides –at the end of the fable tables, tools and resources recommended assessing and addressing any of the five dysfunctions

What are the main points?

The five dysfunctions of a team are

  1. Absence Of Trust
  2. Fear Of Conflict
  3. Lack Of Commitment
  4. Avoidance Of Accountability
  5. Inattention To Results

Their corresponding causes are

  1. Inability Or Unwillingness To Admit Vulnerability
  2. Desire To Keep Artificial Harmony
  3. Being Ambiguous About The Team’s Goals, Not Buying In
  4. Allowing Others To Perform Below Standards And Against Group Decisions/Goals
  5. Serving Individual Status And Ego Rather Than Team Goals

The team improvement does not follow a linear progression. Teams go back to old patterns although they intellectually understand and buy in to the sources of their trouble.

Although the Model is easy to understand, most of the work (The Heavy Lifting, the author calls it) is done “on the job”, while the team is planning, debriefing and strategizing. It takes a courageous leader to keep “calling unacceptable behaviors” as she sees them and continue to communicate her expectations.

Some time commitments numbers at stand out in the “Model” part of the book, under the heading “A Note About Time – Kathryn’s Methods.” Specifically the time Kathryn (the protagonist and leader of the team) dedicates to having the intact team be together amounts to a huge 15 %(!!) of available time. These are Annual Planning and Leadership Development retreats (3 days off site), Quarterly Staff meetings (2 days off site), Weekly Staff meetings (weekly 2 hours on site) and Ad Hoc Topical meetings (2 hours on site)

Another terrific distinction the book makes is the primacy of the Executive team membership over the membership in the team the executives lead. In my experience, one of the key reasons there are disconnects between the top leadership and the working associates is because senior leaders are pledging their allegiances to their teams, by protecting them, isolating them from the directions and vision of the organization in exchange for what they think of loyalty to their troops.

As teams increasingly do the work of the 21st century, Teamwork emerges as more critical than Technology and Financial resources. This book offers a simple but not simplistic model of key team dysfunctions and tools to diagnose them.