NDP Book Shelf: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Book review by Catriona MacLachlan

Full disclosure: I am a wicked big Patriots fan – please don’t hold that against me! I come from a state where Tom Brady is considered a hero, and the Patriots are worshiped. The Patriots have set records that no other team has been able to touch. They’ve faced scandal, injuries, the pressure and scrutiny that comes from being at the top, and many other challenges over the last decade. But, despite these challenges, they seem to consistently work together as a cohesive team to dominate and win. Love them or despise them, you can’t help but wonder HOW do they do it? I found myself thinking of them as I read Patrick Lecioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

I often wonder, what do successful teams, companies or leaders all have in common? Is it that they have lots of money from investors, offer a superior product or service, and/or have the best and brightest working for them? Is it just luck?

After reading, Lencioni’s book, I think I have a better idea and I’ve learned that knowing how to become great is equally as important as knowing what prevents you from achieving greatness.

In this quick and easy read, Lencioni discusses what needs to be in place for a team, dental practice, business or classroom to reach their full potential.

According to Lencioni, the five main reasons teams fail are related to five Dysfunctions:

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

The book illustrates how each dysfunction negatively affected the fictitious DecisionTech, Inc., a once successful company that Lecioni uses as a fable throughout the book. Lecioni develops each member of DecisionTech’s team with examples of interactions and problems and opportunities the fictitious team faces.  While the company is fake, its issues are very real, and mimic are faced by start-ups, athletes, students, and companies everywhere. As you learn more about each member on the DecisionTech team, you might begin to recognize yourself and some of your coworkers – I know I did (and I wasn’t always the best character)!

He doesn’t only pose the problem of course – he offers the answers if you can follow his advice! Lecioni believes that successful teams have great leaders who TRUST one another, ENGAGE in productive conflict, COMMIT to decisions and a plan of action, hold one another ACCOUNTABLE, and focus on achieving COLLECTIVE results.  The theory that a strong and cohesive team develops when you have not one, not two, but ALL of these qualities together.

What I like about this book is the truth it speaks… I have worked at a DecisionTech-like organization. I have experienced these “dysfunctions,” but I didn’t know how to recognize them as dysfunctions or remotely know how to overcome them. The book exposes the pitfalls that are faced, regardless of title, position, or company size and offers real life solutions and action of how to be a better team player and ultimately, a better leader.

I’ll end with my favorite quote, “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare!”.  Now go read this book!