The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Patrick Lencioni’s piece, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A leadership fable, is a must read book for managers and all stakeholders in a business organization. The book offers a rare insight into the concept of team works and lays down all the factors important to the success of a team work. The book explores the various theories on which managers can rely to facilitate effective team work within their various organizations. The book is very informative and addresses the most likely pitfalls that an organization is likely to face when enforcing a team work policy. The better part of the book contains a fable that is carefully and wisely composed to come out as supporting the author’s suppositions on team work. The last pages, about forty or so, outlines the author’s model of team work, also referred to as the five dysfunctions model. It gives a review of the model in great details, it gives instructions on how one can succinctly identify the five dysfunctions and ultimately overcome them. The book is complete with a draft of a questionnaire that would be helpful to any reader who finds it necessary to assess the situation of teamwork in their own organizations.
The fable that forms the first part of the book is about a fictitious company named Decision Tech. This name strikes the reader as odd but is, in fact, an allusion to the tough choices and decisions awaiting the company and which it ultimately has to make. Decision Tech is a two year old company struggling to survive in a competitive environment. With a past of relative success and considerable leverage above its peers coupled with great expectations and hopes, the company is crumbling down and must be saved. This necessitates the recruitment of a new CEO, a Mrs. Kathryn Petersen who is taunted as having vast experience in management and teambuilding. The main problem is that the new CEO has absolutely no experience in the Tech industry (Lencioni, 2002). This heralds the beginning of new challenges to the company under Kathryn Petersen. She soon discovers that the company executives are independent and largely autonomous technocrats who find it difficult to embrace team building in the course of discharging their duties.
Decision Tech is indeed the classical dysfunctional organization. Each of its executives operates in circumstances unique only to them. This, in essence, means that each executive has a set of problems only affecting them and hardly other managers in the organization. Each also has their own weaknesses that range from poor communication, inept social orientation to sheer haughtiness. There, for instance is one executive that appears to be very helpful to his colleagues lending a helping hand to literally everyone. He however has perennially failed to get his own work done. Some of the employees have also chosen to quit the company. Kathryn, however, must overcome all these challenges and build a formidable team that would deliver on the company objective. She must, working together with other executives, come up with a cohesive team that would rely on each other and work together in a bid to achieve the common company goals.
The author successfully demonstrates his five dysfunctional models using different characters. Each character embodies the ideals of a particular dysfunction. He takes great care to ensure that inconsistencies that may interfere with the flow of the models are eliminated. In addition, the author also directs a lot of energy at explaining these models in the last part of the book. Here, each model is clearly illustrated and their applications in real life situation suggested by the author. The book The five Dysfunctions of a Team offers a model that is feasible and applicable in different real life situations in the company environment and in institutions such as dental schools. It offers several valuable lessons to both heads of institutions and middle level managers who would like to capitalize on team work to establish enabling work environment in their organization.
The first dysfunction as outlined in the book is ‘absence of trust’. This dysfunction often have far reaching effects in the operations of an institution because where individuals must depend on each other as happens in a dental school environment, trust is paramount. Where team members do not trust each other, chances are that the team players will refuse to accept their mistakes and shy away from consultations. In a dental school, trust is critical among the members of group as teaching dental students is never a light matter because the students are expected to later deal with the lives of other people. If the dental students do not have trust in their qualified instructors and lecturers, they are not likely to open up and this will adversely affect the learning process. The second dysfunction according to the author is ‘The Fear of Conflict’. If a team can not engage in constructive conflict, it will be very difficult for the parties to solve their problems or make consensual agreements even on issues critical to the operation of the business organization. Trust, which is addressed in the first dysfunction, is very important in management of conflicts because it is only where there is trust that people will be willing to share ideas and correct each other for the common good of the institution. When there is sufficient trust, members of a team will learn not to take things personally hence encouraging constructive conflict. In a dental school environment, many conflicts often arise. Conflicts may arise between the lead dentist and his nurses especially during maxillofacial operations when strict attention to detail and procedure is indispensable. If these conflicts did not arise, members of the operation teams may not be able to appreciate the professional ideals of each other. The author identifies ‘Lack of Commitment’ as the third dysfunction. Commitment is often the product of consensus. Before one is convinced that their opinions have been heard, and perhaps, considered, it is difficult for them to commit to any cause. Commitment is very important in the performance of one’s roles in an organization as it is only then that one can give their best. Dental schools and other health institutions should therefore strive to cultivate a sense of commitment in their teams to get the work done. ‘Avoidance of Accountability’ is the fourth dysfunction according to the author. In a team, members must take it upon themselves to ensure that accountability is upheld. While in most cases the team members view themselves as equals, it is important that they point out mistakes and advice each other on how things should be done. It should not be left to the team leader to ensure accountability because this may discourage members from speaking out when they feel that something is wrong. Lencioni writes that the fifth dysfunction is ‘Inattention to Results’. This happens when people loose sight of the company objectives and their major goals in pursuit of self interest and greed. The team must always remain focused and work towards its goals and objectives.
It should be noted that only one can bring down the entire team if not well handled. At the dental school, a number of these dysfunctions are still evident and the fourth dysfunction is a classical example. Many players in the Dental school, especially those perceived as the de facto team leaders, portray an inherent tendency to avoid accountability. This has effectively dampened the spirits of other members who would want to get more involved and to have things done more transparently. A good knowledge of these dysfunctions can be used by Dental schools to chart team work policies that would ensure that better results are achieved. In a dental school environment it is important that trust is cultivated among the workers in different categories from specialists such as dentists and anesthesiologists to the support staff to build strong teams for the common good of the institution. The teams should be encouraged to engage in constructive conflicts and discuss openly. They should be encouraged to renew there commitment to providing high quality education in dentistry and to provide outstanding dental healthcare services while always keeping in mind the institution’s desired results and objectives.
The five dysfunctions of a team is clearly the ultimate handbook for institutional management. This is because teamwork occupies a central position in the day to day operations of institutions and other organizations. Finding solutions to the dysfunctions mentioned by the author would be the first step towards establishing a well grounded teamwork culture at the dental school. The author rightly suggests many ways to deal with these dysfunctions. These can be adopted by dental schools to strengthen team work.
Lencioni, P. (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A leadership fable. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.