How to fix team problems

It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare, according to Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. Because they are made up of imperfect human beings, teams are inherently dysfunctional. Teamwork requires mastering a set of behaviours that are theoretically uncomplicated but very difficult to put into practice.

The leadership fable tells the story of DecisionTech Inc, a promising and well-funded Silicon Valley start-up with an experienced and expensive executive team, which is underachieving and experiencing low morale because of poor teamwork. We watch as a new CEO, Kathryn Petersen, diagnoses the problems and systematically deals with them, confronting and overcoming resistance, and building the executives into a true team.

The five dysfunctions which cause lack of teamwork, according to Lencioni’s model, are:

  • Absence of trust, which causes team members not to be open with each other.
  • Fear of conflict, which prevents unfiltered debate of ideas.
  • Lack of commitment, because there is no opportunity for team members’ views to be aired and taken into consideration.
  • Avoidance of accountability, which flows from the lack of buy-in by team members.
  • Inattention to results, which is the inevitable result of avoiding accountability.

Lencioni is a skilled “business fiction” writer, and he manages to inject plenty of tension and interest into what could otherwise be fairly dry management theory. I found the book an enjoyable and informative read, and I believe that many of the organisations I have encountered would benefit greatly from taking the author’s team-building lessons to heart.

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