5 Dysfunctions of a Team

 The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a fable about a business by Patrick Lencioni. The business provides software development, customer support, operations, and marketing/communications.  They face failure because they cannot work together.  As the author points out early in the book – “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”  Patrick Lencioni, the author, then points out the Five major problems that the company must address to become a market leader.  Each of these require management to lead the change. 

  • Five primary behaviors block a group’s ability to work together. The foundation is absence of trust, and each of the other changes builds on improving Trust.  The Inattention to Results is  the final attitude which the leaders must change.
  • Absence of Trust – To achieve a common goal, the team members must trust that their weaknesses will not be used against them or manipulated by managers.  “Trust requires that team members have confidence in each other intentions, that they are good and therefore have no reason to be protective and careful in the team…The key to overcoming a lack of trust is shared experiences, multiple follow-throughs and integrity.”  Leaders must build trust, “The primary role of the leader is to lead my example, be the first one to be vulnerable, and create an environment where it’s safe to be vulnerable. Building trust makes conflict possible!” Open discussion and assuming people’s best intentions toward the group goals are both great examples of where leaders can demonstrate Trust as a core value.  The most common sign of absence of Trust is the inability of the team to acknowledge the need to change, accept constructive disagreement, and quietly nodding at meetings without any action or change in behavior.  These are all addressed below.  Trust is the critical foundation for addressing any of the other problems, and the CEO (Kathryn) realizes she must first restore a firm foundation of trust before she can proceed to introducing Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Results-focus. 
  • Fear of Conflict – Once a team has trust, productive conflict becomes possible.  This fear of conflict commonly appears as inauthentic “buy-in” without honest follow through.  From the book, ““Harmony itself is good, I suppose, if it comes as a result of working through issues constantly and cycling through conflict. But if it comes only as a result of people holding back their opinions and honest concerns, then it’s a bad thing.”  Leaders should be “careful not to try and steer the team towards premature resolution of conflict with the intention of protecting people. It’s important for leaders to help the team members to learn and develop positive conflict resolution skills. The best way to do this is for leader to “lead by example”, modeling the appropriate behaviors, rather than trying to smooth over the conflict. The author also points out that conflict is never going to feel comfortable but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t engage in it.  Consensus is not the goal of conflict.  Conflict allows people to express their opinions before a decision is made.  Once teams can accept healthy conflict, people can buy into decisions.  This is because “most reasonable people don’t have to get their way in a discussion. They just need to be heard, and to know that their input was considered and responded to.”
  •  Lack of Commitment – Leaders seek buy-in and commitment, and are commonly confused why it is difficult to establish this attitude.  The gap is because Trust and Conflict are required building blocks for Commitment.  While it is difficult at first to adopt, the following reality is what leads to honest commitment by teams – “When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board…Leaders help facilitate commitment by reviewing all key decisions made at the end of team meetings, making responsibility and deadlines clear.”  Without managers committing to a common purpose, individual managers commit to their own specific objectives.  This often does not effectively advance the overall group’s goals.  It is critical to build collective ego, through open conflict and trust, so that the group builds respect and a sense of collective accomplishment.   Once teams trust one another, manage conflict honestly and transparently, and are able to form commitment to shared goals, the team can address the next building block – accountability.
  • Avoidance of Accountability – Without team commitment, conflict and trust, you cannot have accountability. If the team is to be accountable, everyone must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.  From the book – “People aren’t going to hold each other accountable if they haven’t clearly bought in to the same plan.”  Every team member must become accountable to the team, and as the author points out Communication of Accountability is key, “employees need to hear messages up to seven times before they really absorb them.” When managers hold each other, themselves, and the team accountable, it becomes easy to see -“Team members should never let the team down regarding commitments. The team needs to hold their peers responsible for achieving results and working to high standards.”  Leaders must encourage others to hold them accountable and openly hold one another accountable to model the open discussion, trust, and delivery of results. Leaders who do not model this behavior must see that change as the only option to fit within the group.  “When teams are not holding one another accountable it’s usually because they’re not measuring their progress. It’s important to make clear what the team’s standards are, what needs to get done, by who and by when. Ambiguity is the enemy of accountability.”  Once teams trust each other, handle conflict productively, are committed, and accountable to the same plan, the last piece can be addressed: Inattention to Results.
  • Inattention to Results – Leaders must drive for results which advance the entire group’s objectives.  In response, a healthy team places team results as the most important goal. A performance based culture seeks accomplishment and improvement as goals worthy of sacrifice and take pride in the results the group accomplishes.   “When all team members place the team’s results first the team becomes results orientated.  Leaders need to make the teams results clear for all to see, rewarding the behaviors that contribute to the team’s results. It’s the responsibility of the leader to keep the teams focus on results.”
  • How will we know what success looks like
    • Trust – People are willing to be open and vulnerable in the group – “I screwed up” is OK! to say.
    • Conflict – team engage in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas
    • Commitment – team members openly discuss and commit to decisions
    • Accountability – team members call their peers on actions/behaviors which hurt the team or don’t serve our common goal
    • Results – team members do use results as their basis for success.  Team members stop putting their individual needs before those of the group.
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About paulscho36

I like to simplify software. I love people who actually deliver software.
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