The Five Dysfunctions

The next book in my series of reviews is called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. The book focuses on what the author describes as the five dysfunctions which cause teams to underperform. Whilst the book is written from a board level, it’s clear to see how each of these dysfunctions could apply to any level or size of team. In fact as I was reading this book, I often spent time contemplating examples in my day job. The book is written predominantly as a fable meaning there is a narrative to follow. I enjoyed this aspect as it really brought the dysfunctions to life and enabled me to imagine them at work.

Setting the Scene

The fable itself follows a tech company failing to dominate it’s market despite having the best product and executive team. In order to correct this, the company decides to bring in a new CEO who sets about using the five dysfunctions model to educate the executive team and consequently reverse their fortunes. We follow a series of offsites where each dysfunction is described in detail and applied to the fictional scenarios presented.

Once we reach the end of the fable and a happy ending ensured, there is also a small wrap up section. This section outlines the dysfunctions in more detail and describes methods for measuring and correcting them in your own team. I think this was a very important piece of the puzzle and brought all of the learnings together in an easily referenced place.

Hit Me

So what about the actual dysfunctions? If I stand back and look objectively, there is nothing particularly new or innovate being described. Each dysfunction is probably something you have read about in other management books and often common sense. For example, the base of the dysfunction pyramid is trust. Clearly everyone has heard the mantra that trust is the bedrock of a well functioning team.

To summarise, the full five are as follows:

  • Absence of Trust
  • Fear of Conflict
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Avoidance of Accountability
  • Inattention to Results

Each dysfunction leads on from the previous and thus forms a pyramid. The book goes into detail around defining what each means as there are some subtleties involved. For example, conflict does not mean it’s good for everybody to shout insults at each other.

And the Results?

As you can see, the dysfunctions are all fairly simple. The strength of this book however is that it clarifies the definitions and brings them together into a succinct model. The fact that it’s written as a fable meant it was easy to pick up and follow. I found myself reading this book a lot faster than more verbose, methodic texts. As there are only five key points, it also means you can easily understand and apply them to your day job. As such, I would highly recommend reading this book if only to shore up knowledge you already have.