Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Book Notes: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

I already knew that, building a great team is not an easy task. Hence, the next question is, how to build a great team? Search for answers to this question led me to the book called "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni. This post is a collection of notes from this book. 

Who is this book for?

Teamwork is the only way one can achieve success and make incredible things happen. This book is for any one who is trying build a great teams or is part of a team that wants to become great. 

Usual Disclaimer

This post is by no means a summary of the book, the notes mentioned here are extracts from the book. If you find these interesting, please pickup a copy of the book and give it a go.

Book Notes

Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare. 

If you could get all the people in the organisation rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time. 


The first dysfunction of the team is Absence Of Trust. Trust is the foundation of real teamwork. And so the first dysfunction is a failure on the part of team members to understand and open up to one another. 

Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their concerns without fear of reprisal. 

If we don't trust one another then we cannot be the kind of team that ultimately achieves results. 

Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability. 

Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another. 


The ultimate dysfunction of a team is Inattention To Results: The tendency of team members to seek out individual recognition and attention at the expense of results. This stems from status and ego. 

The key is to define goals, results in a way that is simple enough to grasp easily and specific enough to be actionable. 

Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think. 


The next disfunction right after absence of trust is Fear Of Conflict.  If we don't trust one another, then we aren't going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict. And we'll just continue to preserve a sense of artificial harmony. 

All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship and certainly in business.


Next disfunction of a team is the Lack Of Commitment and the failure to buy in to decisions. The evidence of this one is ambiguity. This basically is committing to a plan or a decision and getting everyone to clearly buy in to it. 

Disagree and commit: You can argue about something and disagree, but still commit to it as though everyone originally bought into the decision completely. 

Commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision. 


Next disfunction is, Avoidance Of Accountability: Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, it is then that we have to hold each other accountable for what we sign up to do, for high standards of performance and behaviour. And as simple as that sounds, most executives hate to do it, especially when it comes to peer's behaviour, because they want to avoid interpersonal discomfort. 

Leaders need to be intolerant of behaviour that demonstrates an absence of trust, or one that focuses on individual ego. They need to encourage conflict, drive for clear commitments and expect all team members to hold each other accountable. They need to call out bad behaviour when they see it, and they expect the same from other team members. They have no time to waste!

Some people are hard to hold accountable because they are so helpful. Others because they get defensive. Others because they are intimidating. It's not easy to hold anyone accountable, not even your own kids.

Genuine teamwork in most organisations remain as elusive as it has ever been. Organisations fail to achieve teamwork because they unknowingly fall prey to five natural but dangerous pitfalls, which are the five dysfunctions of a team. 

It is the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviours that might hurt the team. 


Absence Of Trust: This stems from the unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation of trust. 

Fear of Conflict: Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.

Lack Of Commitment: Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.

Avoidance Of Accountability: Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviours that seem counterproductive to the good of the team. 

Inattention to results: This occurs when team members put their individual needs - such as ego, career development, or recognition - or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team. 

Truly cohesive teams have the following qualities:
  • They trust one another.
  • They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
  • They commit to decisions and plans of action.
  • They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans.
  • They focus on the achievement of collective results.  


I enjoyed reading the book. Its packed with great advice. It also narrates the advise as a story which makes it easy to read and grasp. Totally recommended. 
Have some Fun!