Business Center

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Author: Patrick Lencioni
ISBN number: 0-7879-6075-6
Posted: July 2019
Summary by: Courtney Forehand, Media and Marketing Intern

Patrick Lencioni, a best-selling author exploring topics relating to organizational health, teams, and leadership, said it best when he said teams are dysfunctional because they are composed of human beings, human beings that are imperfect. In Lencioni’s book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, he writes a fable identifying five dysfunctions that plague the success and connectivity of teams. Lencioni believes that the success of a team comes from trusting one another, being willing and able to debate ideas and issues, committing to the ideas and goals of the team, recognizing when team members deviate from said plan and having the courage to hold that person accountable, and working toward the same goals to reach the same results.

Jamie Price

Like all good building blocks, you need a solid foundation. Lencioni describes the foundation for building a successful team as the absence of trust. Being vulnerable within your team is important because providing honesty regarding your weaknesses, lack of skills, shortcomings, or strengths to your team members builds trust in the working relationship. Teams that trust one another know they can rely on one another’s skills and strengths. These teams are successful because they all focus on the benefit and growth of the team for the project at hand, rather than their own, personal political agendas.

Jamie Price

Building trust in your team is important because, without it, your team will have a fear of conflict that leads to artificial harmony and superficial working relationships. A fear of conflict, in this sense, a fear of ideological conflict, is healthy for teams because it provides opportunities for team members to question one another and challenge each other in constructive and helpful ways. According to Lencioni, open communication and the ability and desire to express opinions and concerns with your team allows for constructive conflict within the team. A lack of trust leads to a lack of passion for the business, resulting in superficial discussions that waste the time and effort of team members.

Jamie Price

Without conflict, Lencioni believes the next stage is unattainable. Lencioni stated that teams will not be successful without each team member feeling as if their concerns and input have been heard by their team and valued with a response. The lack of commitment dysfunction breeds ambiguity and can lead teams to believe they need to completely agree for the team to be successful. In Lencioni’s opinion, commitment means achieving clarity for each team member about business goals and buying-in to the idea to gain consensus on the project. When team members commit to the goals set by the team, it provides confidence in one another that each member is working on the same page and toward the same goal rather than undermining each other or doubting the agreed-upon actions.

Jamie Price

Having each team member feel as if they are heard and valued is important because it leads to the avoidance of accountability dysfunction. You want your team to feel as if they have been heard and valued because then each individual is working toward the same goals, the goals that are determined and defined by the team. When all team members work toward the same goal, it allows for greater success. This dysfunction thrives on peer pressure and it thrives on team members holding one another to a high standard of performance rates. This stage can be difficult, especially for team members who struggle with confrontation.

Jamie Price

Finally, Lencioni writes that the most important dysfunction is the inattention to results. This dysfunction is important because it sacrifices the team's results at the expense of the individual seeking to fill their ego, grow their career, or gain recognition. When a team member focuses on anything other than the goals set by the team, the team suffers. When team members are willing to commit to the goal of the team, goals are achieved passionately and with a desire to enhance the team.

Lencioni’s fable sets strong examples of what successful leaders would look like in developing a strong, vulnerable, committed, confrontational, and goal-oriented team.

Colorado: The Official State Web Portal