The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick M. Lencioni
The Five Dysfunctions of a TeamHow many books are there out there on improving business cultures? You can find parachutes, cheese, fish, time management, leadership management, team building, and you name it. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is one of those books. And it does it well.
Lencioni has written a short book that is easy to read and gets his message through. He shows that the five dysfunctions are 1) absence of trust; 2) fear of conflict; 3) lack of commitment; 4) avoidance of accountability; and 5) inattention to results.
Instead of concentrating on each dysfunction and describing what it is and how to overcome it, Lencioni writes a fiction story of a company that needs a change in management. A new CEO, Kathryn, comes in to a company in trouble. She takes over the top management team that has problems. The company could be in a good place in its field if its management team doesn’t fall apart.
I found Lencioni’s style very effective in this book. He doesn’t propose a management fad to follow. He doesn’t have a set formula. Instead he uses Kathryn and her team to show how different people react and how a manager should deal with the issues. He also makes them all human – even Kathryn jumps into at least one arguement from a personal rather than professional viewpoint.
After the fictional narrative, Lencioni goes over the five dysfunctions again, this time addressing each one professionally. He contrasts the negatives of each dysfunction and what a positive stance should be. He also shows how each one builds to the next. He uses a pyramid graph, with the absence of trust at the base. He explains his use of terminology in this section.
One particular aspect that impresses me is Lencioni’s insistence on conflict in meetings. Here we’re talking about meetings that are decision making or job building meetings, not the ones that just provide information. People disagree. Yet when they work together, they try to avoid conflict (I’m great at avoidance, myself). If one person doesn’t agree with a decision or thinks a new proposal isn’t a good one, it may not be addressed. That person may wait and complain after the meeting, or ignore any decisions made, or work around the agreed work task. Instead, the objections should be voiced in the meeting, letting everyone see the other point(s) of view. Then the group should be able to discuss the problems and work them through. Perhaps the first person still doesn’t totally agree, but can buy in and be committed to the action without subverting behind the scenes. But the conflict needs to happen in the meetings, not later at people’s desks, the lunch room, or in poor attitudes.
While The Five Dysfunctions of a Team may not be the cure all for a business’ management problems, it certainly can help. While I was reading it I kept thinking about my weekly team meetings in my office. While we’re not stuck at the bottom of the pyramid, I think we have a ways to go to get to the top. Perhaps I’ll be able to learn a couple things from this book to improve my part of our business.