Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Notes - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Lots of people have been recommending this book for years and I only picked it up because someone gave it to me. I should have read this much earlier. These specific notes are right on target.

1 - Absence of Trust [which leads to]
2 - Fear of Conflict [which leads to]
3 - Lack of Commitment [which leads to]
4 - Avoidance of Accountability [which leads to]
5 - Inattention to Results

#3- Lack of Commitment
The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty:
Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even when compete agreement is impossible. They understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered. Great teams ensure that everyone's ideas are genuinely considered, which then creates a willingness to rally around whatever decision is ultimately made by the group. And when that is not possible due to an impasse, the leader of the team is allowed to make the call.
: Certainty
Great teams also pride themselves on being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct. That's because they understand the old military axiom that a decision is better than no decision. They also realize that it is better to make a decision boldly and be wrong - and then change direction with equal boldness - than it is to waffle.
Contrast this with the behavior of dysfunctional teams that try to hedge their bets and delay important decisions until they have enough data to feel certain that they are making the right decision. As prudent as this might seem, it is dangerous because of the paralysis and lack of confidence it breeds within a team.
It is important to remember that conflict underlies the willingness to commit without perfect information. In many cases, teams have all the information they need, but it resides within the hearts and minds of the team itself and must be extracted through unfiltered debate. Only when everyone has put their opinions and perspectives on the table can the team confidently commit to a decision knowing that it has tapped into the collective wisdom of the entire group.

The worst enemy of a team that is susceptible to this dysfunction is ambiguity, and timing is one of the most critical factors that must be made clear.


  1. Wish I had read this about 3 years ago... though it wouldn't have been as meaningful as it is now. Hopefully wrapping up a project that started three years ago... it was team centric

  2. ha yeah i hear ya. maybe thats why it seemed so relevant to me now too.