The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Book Summary

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

By Patrick Lencioni



The book is a fable-based story of Kathryn Petersen, the new CEO of DecisionTech. She joins a company that has a more experienced and talented executive team than any of its competitors, more cash, better technology and a more powerful Board of Directors, but are behind it’s competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth.

After spending time meeting with the Board, Executive Team, the staff and attending meetings and observing the dynamics she holds a 2 day off-site meeting with the Executive Team. She announces the reason for the poor company performance is because the team is dysfunctional and that there are 5 reasons for this.


1. Absence of Trust
  • Predictive Trust vs Vulnerability-based Trust. A very important distinction.
  • Predictive Trust comes from knowing what someone is going to do or say. This is not the type of trust that Lencioni talks about.
  • Lencioni focuses on the need for people to open up to each other and show vulnerability as a process of building trust with other team members. This includes admitting weaknesses, skill deficiencies, inter-personal shortcomings, mistakes and making requests for help.
  • Like most other things, this needs to start from the leader.


2. Fear of Conflict
  • People need to be able to engage in open and constructive conflict/debate about ideas (not about personal shortcomings) to get to the “truth” or best possible answer.
  • If this doesn’t happen because they are afraid of the ramifications then ideas won’t be challenged and the best outcome will not happen.
  • Also, if the environment isn’t conducive to people having their say then they won’t buy into decisions or the direction that is set. This then leads to the other dysfunctions.
  • The lack of debate about ideas can also ferment and build until there becomes conflict about the person whose ideas you don’t agree with. It is much better to discuss and disagree about their ideas early on instead of it becoming a personal sore point later.


3. Lack of Commitment
  • When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board.
  • Lencioni  believes that consensus is a 4-letter word. 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.
  • Intel, the computer chip manufacturer, has a saying “Disagree and commit”.


4. Avoidance of Accountability
  • Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, you have to hold each other accountable for what you all sign up to do. If this isn’t done then you won’t achieve high standards of performance and behavior.
  • Team members need to “call” their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.
  • Members of great teams improve their relationships by holding one another accountable, thus demonstrating that they respect each other and have high expectations for one another’s performance.
  • In great teams peer-to-peer accountability happens and not just accountability imposed by the leader. If someone raises an issue about another team member to the leader and then the leader raises this with the person then that person will wonder who “ratted them out”. This is not constructive.


5. Inattention to Results
  • The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. They could be more concerned about their own personal budget, their department, their career, their status, their ego.
  • While profit may be the ultimate measure of results for a corporation, the goals and objectives that executives set for themselves along the way constitute a more representative example of the results it strives for as a team.
  • A functional team must make the collective results of the group more important to each individual than individual members’ goals.


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