The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
by Patrick Lencioni

“Teams” are all around us; in business, community life, and even families. Any group of people organized around a common purpose or goal, either situational or ongoing, constitutes a team. Why do some groups, or teams, work better than others, and why do some teams fail to work at all?

Patrick Lencioni’s “leadership fable” tracks a new CEO as she attempts to work with her management team to overcome the company’s sudden lack of business enthusiasm amidst the high-tech revolution, despite recent great success. The fable follows her through a series of meetings and explorations of what makes team members act the way they do, why dysfunction may often be a natural reaction to circumstances, and what can be done to address the underlying causes.

Staff meetings, board retreats, and background thoughts & conversations illustrate the five dysfunctions — absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. The answer to successful team function involves attention to the five dysfunctions, but timing, sequencing, and techniques are all key to success. Naming them and saying “Let’s not do that!” isn’t enough.

The book ends with a more scholarly, direct exposition on the topic of team dysfunction. Lencioni’s insight, however, is that the fable helps the reader internalize the lessons that otherwise seem too obvious to be worthy of treatment in a book. Being so obvious, they would fail to grasp our attention sufficiently for us to think about them and relate to them without the fable’s bring them to life in realistic situations. The final chapter synthesizes the fable’s lessons after the fable has made us ready to accept them more fully.

The book is easy to read (and easy to carry around); in fact, it’s a page-turner, if such a thing can be said of a business book. For those committed to implementing the Five Dysfunctions theories, there is a companion workbook (not reviewed) with aids for the team leader and team members.