Book review: The five dysfunctions of a team by Patrick Lencioni

Book review: The five dysfunctions of a team by Patrick Lencioni

To kick-off what will hopefully turn into a series of Book Reviews of some of my favorite titles in my library, I have chosen The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

The book is written as a “leadership fable” and is a fascinating read about the leadership team of a struggling fictional company called Decision Tech. As the new CEO Kathryn Petersen takes over the company it is in a serious crisis threatening to put the company out of business. Kathryn quickly realizes that the problems are not due to lack of talent or innovative products. However the executive team is in a state mistrust, blaming, no one accepting responsibility, deadlines being missed and moral on the decline. The team is unable to make important decisions and as a result the company is losing ground to its competitors.

According to Lencioni, there are five things that can get in the way of working together as a team towards a common goal:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to results

Lencioni points out, that trust is fundament to teamwork. The absence of trust among team members makes them unwilling to be vulnerable within the team. This leads to a fear of conflict. Team member resist from airing their honest opinions and become incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debates of ideas. The lack of these healthy conflicts/discussions leads to team members not truly committing to the group’s decision. Without true commitment and fear of conflicts, team members develop an avoidance of accountability. This again leads to inattention to the collective goals and results and individual member’s starts putting their personal or division’s needs above the teams.

Reading the story you can easily see how the five dysfunctions are related and how disruptive any one of them can be. The fundamentals are the same regardless of what the team collaborates to achieve, but it give the story an extra notch that the dysfunctional team is made up of the company executives. Maybe the most fascinating aspect of the story is how realistic it plays out. Have you worked in just a few teams you will probably find it easy to relate the actions and motivations of characters from the story to current or former colleagues, or even to yourself.

In the second part of the book Lencioni describes a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome dysfunctions and build a cohesive, effective team.

I almost swallowed The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and I highly recommend it to anyone working in teams or just looking for a great story. Especially if you are the leader of a team as changing a dysfunctional team will always start with the leader. As Lencioni puts it; “The most important action that a leader must take to encourage the building of trust on a team is to demonstrate vulnerability first”.