Review of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kamil Zakiev
3 min readApr 11, 2021

I just finished reading Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” which describes the perfect team model that allows a group of people to function as a whole and achieve amazing results.

The insights that I got from the book are so valuable that I want to encourage you to read it on your own by giving a brief overview.

I believe that the book structure is the best possible to convey ideas in an unambiguous way. The first chapter is a gripping novel which describes how ongoing issues are getting resolved. The second and the last chapter is a theory part that defines the model itself in a concise and straightforward way in terms of dysfunctions of a team to overcome. Let’s cover those dysfunctions one by one.

Dysfunction 1: Absence of trust

It is believed that in today’s competitive world it’s dangerous to exhibit your weaknesses in front of the team because that lowers your professional level. Team members that follow this belief:

  • hesitate to ask for a help,
  • hesitate to offer their help,
  • jump to conclusions without needed clarifications,
  • dread and therefore avoid meetings,
  • waste energy on keeping a posture of invulnerability.

Obviously, this will not help a team as a whole to perform on a high level.

Absence of trust can be overcome if team members make personal connections with each other and expose their weak sides. A leader can facilitate here by showing his vulnerability first.

Dysfunction 2: Fear of conflict

Have you ever felt uncomfortable to start an argument and ultimately let an inefficient decision thrive? It may sound contradictory but open conflicts are important to make the most efficient decisions based on top of the inputs from all team members.

After all, as human beings we want our ideas to be genuinely considered and typically not interested in getting our own way. Therefore it’s not necessary for a team member to agree with the final approach to feel comfortable.

The way to let healthy arguments rise is to clarify to a team that conflicts are good and provide real benefits. A leader may pay attention to moments when conflicts seem to fade because of personal discomfort and clarify those benefits again.

Dysfunction 3: Lack of commitment

This dysfunction will definitely ruin your expectations of rapid progress since it brings discrepancies among a team and in an entire organization. Team commitment (which means support of made decisions) is possible only if there are clarity and buy-in in place. It’s worth to mention though that:

  • Clarity doesn’t mean certainty: you can still have a risk but you make a decision built upon all team members input to avoid analysis paralysis. Cascading messages, deadlines and reasoning about the worst case scenario may facilitate decision process
  • Buy-in doesn’t mean consensus because the latter doesn’t bring the best possible solution

The role of a leader is to be comfortable with the prospect of making a wrong decision, adhere to schedules and avoid focusing on certainty or consensus

Dysfunction 4: Avoidance of accountability

Once a team has an overarching commitment, team members should not hesitate to call each other on behaviours and actions that might hurt team goals. Without it the team would have low standards, resentment among team members and missed deadlines.

Avoidance of accountability can be overcome if:

  • Goals and standards are publicly available
  • Progress is reviewed on a regular basis
  • Team achievements are rewarded

The Role of a leader is to let the team serve as the primary source of accountability and rarely be the last ditch for calling team members on their behaviour.

Dysfunction 5: Inattention to results

The evidence of inattention to result is that team members treat their individual goals higher than team priorities. As a result, the team as a whole performs poorly.

This could be overcome by:

  • making results clear,
  • committing for results publicly,
  • rewarding only whose actions and behaviours that contributes to team results.

A leader himself must focus on and act in line with the group results.

Conclusion

As you can see, the idea behind each tactic is simple and your team will definitely benefit from overcoming dysfunctions mentioned above. But as I learnt from practice, the challenge is that it requires discipline and persistence from team members.

Good luck in your leadership! If you have any questions or concerns feel free to ask in comments!

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