Book review: The Five Dysfuntions of a Team

Have you ever worked in a team? Was it always easy and trouble-free? I hope not, because without some little conflicts something is really wrong! At least it feels not really vivid and not really human. The point is to handle this situations well. One approach to tackle the most problems is the one of Patrick M. Lencioni to watch out for the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Lets first list them and then discuss a bit further what they meen:

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

They are build like a pyramid: the ground and base for everything is the trust. Without trust in the team, you don’t need to think about conflict or results. If the team members don’t trust each other, it is hard to go in good conflict, the healthy conflicts. They are necessary to feel committed to the common goals. Without this the team members see no reason to hold each other accountable. And if nobody is having a look at the others, there is no attention into the results. That’s it. As easy as this all problems are in a simple line of causes.

How to get to attention to results

Whenever you see a dysfunction described in one of the five pyramid layers, start fixing this exact layer. If it is not directly one of those five, try to find out in which layer it starts. Sometimes the teams are not showing distrust openly. You find one member is asking everybody else, but not her team for a thing. Or you feel a slight thing around the results, like everybody is doing stuff, but there are constant hard discussions about the direction. Whatever you feel the actual layer with a not perfect running team is-start there! Find out in private talks to each of them if it is really the right layer. Look into the book, find a good excercise and go through it with your team. Tell them, that you will have an eye on the thing and want them to look for it too. Tell them repeatedly, what their goal is. For example “you are a team, our goal is, that you’re working effective and efficient together”. If the layer of dysfunction is fixed go to the next higher one and fix this one. Always be on only one layer at a time. Stay there, till it is fixed! Reflect with the team, if the layer is fixed before going up.

My experiences

The most astonishing thing for me was to realize how many things can break a teams attention to results. It can come from so many directions: from above, from the side and from below. If the boss is not respectful, nobody stays respectful for a longer time. It needs so much discipline to maintain respect in such a situation. If you are not allowed to keep your team members accountable, it will end up not well, if nobody interrupts the vicious circle. And it is a real vicious circle: if one thing is broken and not fixed, the layers below will break soon! Why should you hold someone accountable, if nobody cares for the results? Why should anybody commit to something, if there are no consequences?

The awesome part about this book is: it really works! There is a magic behind it, which makes it easy to approach any overwhelming seeming problem. And after some attempts your team is getting better. Already the sign that you care helps the team to feel better. In most cases they want to understand and help fixing the problem. If you keep repeating that the problem will be solved, it helps fixing it. The greatest feeling is, when your team members come up with ideas how to solve the problem and make the team work even better. You only have to start and stick in some situations.

Sometimes it is not the best idea to tell the guys what you are going to do with them. Some don’t want to have the touchy-feely things at work and in their live. For these situations i don’t have something what works really good. Only to not tell front up next time, to not disturb the walk through.

What experience do you have with team building? Did you read other great books on the topic? What problems did you had in your teams? How did you solved them? I would be happy if you would leave a comment!

Thanks for reading and have always great ideas for fixing your team problems!

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