The Main Dysfunctions Of A Team In The Book Five Dysfunctions Of A Team

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“Five dysfunctions of a team” by Patrick Lencioni is different than the other books I have read because of the facts that it is a fable and it addresses problems of a special, crucial subject from the life of an entrepreneur: the health his team. With a simple narrative thread, the book presents the fictive story of a Silicon Valley company upon which we can take many conclusions for our own real-life team.

The first and most effective dysfunction, Lack of trust is leading to Invulnerability. Without trust no team can work together and Kathryn, the new CEO of DecisionTech Company proves this to her team in a 2 day executive retreat. In order to build trust within each other, Kathryn used a behavioral tools called Everything DiSC and two exercises, one of sharing a personal experience of their life and another one of admitting a personal weakness.

These kind of exercises were also used at The Entrepreneurship Academy in our first year and I can say that they helped bit by bit with knowing each other better, yet nothing made us come closer than team-building. We also had problems of trust and these were visible when people gave constructive feedback one to each other and the one receiving feedback was feeling attacked and usually started acting defensive, sometimes even crying or leaving the room. It is very hard to work with big teams and to genuinely come to the opinion that everyone wants the best for yourself. Only in time and with a good leader and team coach we started trusting each other and becoming more vulnerable. One moment which brought us closer was when one of our colleagues recognized her lack of confidence and fear of exposing herself in front of us and realizing that we are all human and we all have flaws and weak points helped. Whereas, in my 2 person team at Humane things are simpler as we are also friend and the time spent tighter built a close safe relationship in which we trust each other.

The second dysfunction, Fear of Conflict. Based on the first dysfunction, lack of trust, it is established the second one. When people don’t trust each other they don’t engage in healthy ideological conflict which brings results. Instead, an artificial harmony sometimes filled with frustration and tension lies upon the room in meetings. A way in which fear of conflict can be overcame is by unburying buried disagreement and bringing them to light.

In Viria team Fear of Conflict was felt when we were only appealingly agreeing to a decision and then we were coming over and over again to it because we were actually not in accordance with it. Some of the team members were simply keeping themselves from commenting and we never knew their opinion. They “accepted the majority’s point of view”. Unfortunately, not talking real subjects or avoiding saying our opinion in order to be liked made us avoid real, interesting, resourceful conversations which could have brought useful results and it was also making our meetings boring. Whereas, in Humance tea we have no problem with combating each other’s opinion and I think the difference is the fact that here we have the skin in the game and if something goes wrong we both lose.

The third dysfunction is Lack of Commitment and is leading to ambiguity. Opposite to what some might think, commitment is not about consensus. It is about everyone expressing their opinion and reaching a conclusion truly accepted by every team member, even if they don’t truly agree. A powerful way to overcome this dysfunction, which I saw that has results is setting deadlines for decisions, in this way the team must reach a conclusion, not come back to the same discussion again and again, even if the conclusion is not perfect for everyone. Having an imperfect conclusion is better than coming back again and again to the same topic because people get rid of it and in the end the quality of the conclusion is far worse, people loosing interest in the topic. Another technique to overcome this dysfunction is to make the results of the discussion clear at the end of the topic. For some these might seem annoying but on the long run it is very useful and brings clarity.

Sometimes in our team because we feared conflict and we did not say our real opinion, the outcome was lack of commitment. Some of us accepted the final decision (usually those it or who have been convinced) while others were keeping their comments to themselves and then commenting when they were hold accountable.

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The forth dysfunction is called Avoidance of Accountability and it is specific to mediocre teams who usually miss deadlines and hold back from asking for explanation when this happens. Low standards are the friend of this dysfunction. By setting clear goals and targets the team can hold each other countable for not reaching them.

In Viria’s team case we still lack accountability. For example when having team sessions online some of us are keeping their cameras off and we are not asking them to turn them on. When we were reading a book with the whole team some were not reading the chapters they committed to and we were accepting it.

The fifth dysfunction, Innatention to Results is the final one and the hardest to prevent firstly because it implies solving all the others before and secondly because it involves giving away your ego and putting team’s interests above the personal ones. In the book it’s given the example of a basketball player who is happier when he scores even if the team loses than when the team wins and he doesn’t score. It is recommended to have KPI’s to measure in a visual way in order to score achievements.

In Humance team I can say that we don’t have this problem. We realize that the team’s good is higher and we sacrifice ourselves if needed. I cannot say the same thing about Viria team maybe because of the same reasons that we don’t have money invested or skin in the game.

In my opinion “Five dysfunctions of a team” is a crucial book to read for any team. Easy to read and with a simple narrative thread, it is a fable and you have to extract the main information and also listen to the expertise and advices of the main character Kathryn. Each and every dysfunction is based on the previous one. This is why when building a team you have to take them step by step. Firstly, build the trust within the team, then overcome the fear of conflict, raise commitment and create accountability and attention to team results.

In the book there are several suggestions of overcoming the dysfunctions like personal histories exercise, demonstration of vulnerability by the leader first, 360-degree feedback in order to gain trust; mining for conflict, real-time permission when it comes to encourage healthy conflict; deadlines and worst-case scenario for raising commitment; publication of goals and progress reviews in order to create accountability; public declarations of results in order to raise attention to team results.

In conclusion, this book can be life-changing for teams and as it is know for an entrepreneur working well in a team is crucial so is a need for reading it. It is also a book for leaders who want to improve the efficiency of their team.

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