Friday, 7 September 2012

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

In one of my previous post I wrote about Patrick Lencioni’s books and his leadership fables that have started to enjoy since last months. 

In particular, I wrote about one of his book: ‘The Five Temptations of a CEO’. After having read it I also read ‘Death by Meeting’, ‘Silos, Politics and Turf Wars’ and ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’.

In this post I would like to write about ‘The Five Dysfunction of a Team’. Below are the notes that I took while reading it. They summarise the key concepts reported by the author.
There are five reasons why teams are dysfunctional:
1.    ABSENCE OF TRUST. Trust id the foundation of real teamwork.
There is nothing soft about it. It is an absolutely critical part of building a team. Great teams do not hold back one another. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses and their concerns without fear of reprisal.
The only way to build trust is by overcoming our need for invulnerability (e.g. by exposing ourselves, by admitting/sharing our strengths and weaknesses as well as mistakes with the other members)

2. FEAR OF CONFLICT. ‘If we do not trust one another, then we are not going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict. We will just continue to preserve a sense of artificial harmony’. ‘None ever gets completely used to conflict. If it is not a little uncomfortable, then it is not real. The key is to keep doing it anyway’.
Ideological conflict is limited to concepts and ideas, and avoids personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks. The only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time.
The single most important arena for conflict is meetings. ‘Our ability to engage in passionate, unfiltered debate about what we need to do to succeed will determine our future as much as any products we develop or partnership we sign’.
3. LACK OF COMMITMENT. And the failure to buy in to decisions. ‘When people do not unload their opinions and feel like they have been listened to, they won’t really get on board’.The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are:
- desire for consensus. ‘Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus and find ways to achieve buy-in even when a complete agreement is impossible. They understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered’.
-need for certainty. A decision is better that no decision. ‘Great teams pride themselves on being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct’.
4. AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY. ‘Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, then we have to hold each other accountable for what we sign up to do, for high standards of performance and behaviour. As simple as that sounds, most executives hate to do it, especially when it comes to a peer’s behaviour, because they want to avoid interpersonal discomfort’.
5. INATTENTION TO RESULTS. This is due to the tendency of team members to seek out individual recognition and attention at the expense of collective results, the goals of the entire team. This is not to say that there is no place for ego on a team. ‘The key is to make the collective ego greater than the individual ones’.
If teammates are not being held accountable for their contributions, they will be more likely to turn their attention to their own needs and to the advancement of themselves.
The author adds that ‘as obvious as this last dysfunction might seem at first glance, it is important to note that many teams are simply not results focused. They do not live in order to achieve meaningful objectives but merely to exist or survive. For those groups, no amount of trust, conflict, commitment and accountability can compensate for a lack of desire to win’.
In conclusion, demonstrate trust, engage in conflict, commit to group decisions, hold peers accountable and focus on the results of the team, not on ego; these are the practical suggestions given by Patrick Lencioni to build a cohesive team.
All this may sound simple but in practice it is extremely difficult. It requires ‘uncommon levels of discipline and persistence’.
‘To achieve results. This is the true measure of a team. That will not happen if we do not address the issues that prevent us from acting like a team’. Kathryn understood that a strong team spends considerable time together, and that by doing so, they actually save time by eliminating confusion and minimizing redundant effort and communication…most management teams balk at spending this much time together, preferring to do ‘real work’ instead.
I hope that you can find these marginalia on engagement useful and helpful. As always I also encourage reading the original source.