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Recommended Reading

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
by Lencioni, P. (2002)

The Heathrow bookshop is full of over simplistic management texts (you know the type, as one of our Associates puts it 'transform your business in 5 easy steps before you land in Frankfurt'). So it surprises me as much as it might you that I'm recommending this particular book. Why? First, it addresses one of the most common challenges facing any leader, why is my team not working as well as it might – and what can I do about it. Second, it deals with the issue in an interesting way by providing a narrative (The Fable) about the trials and tribulations of one experienced leader as she works at resolving the dysfunctions she identifies in her team. Third, and probably most importantly the author offers a simple (but not over simplistic) framework to help team leaders diagnose what might be some of the reasons for the challenges in their team – and offers some useful advice to help resolve these. So what are the five dysfunctions?
  1. 'The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members.  Essentially, this stems from their 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 for trust.
  2. This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction: 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.
  3. A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: 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.
  4. Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction.  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.
  5. Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive.  Inattention to collective results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their units above the collective goals of the team.
And so, like a chain with just one link broken, teamwork deteriorates if even a single dysfunction is allowed to flourish'.

Click here for more information and to buy this book

Review written: 02/06/2008