Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team by Patrick Lencioni; Publisher: Pan Macmillan, 274 pages, Price: Rs. 350 (Indian edition)
If you're team reminds you of the Joneses next door - a family where each member orbits in their own universe, is sometimes at cross purposes with the others and is basically indifferent to them - you might want to pick up Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team. And if you're a team leader trying to bring a dysfunctional team back on track, add this book to your list of must-reads.
A business fable, as it were, this quick and enjoyable read is the story of a management team in a fictitious company, Decision Tech, whose new CEO Kathryn has been brought in to turn the team around. With some surprising yet realistic twists, the story cleverly illustrates how the 'Model of Team Dysfunction' can be applied within work teams while highlighting the actions a leader can take to tackle his or her 'dysfunctional family'.
The core strength of the book, and probably the reason for its popularity, is its simple yet powerful message: "If you could get all the people in an organisation rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition." Not surprisingly, it has appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
The five most-common dysfunctions or disorders that often rent a team apart are introduced as a model in a separate section at the end of the book. Here is a quick summary of the five team disorders:
Absence of Trust
This one's the really big one, so listen up! Lencioni says interpersonal trust rather than task-related trust is the foundation of all successful teams and it is the first step leaders should take. It means trusting the intentions of team members and knowing there is no reason to be guarded around them. Interpersonal trust is important because it helps teams engage in passionate, constructive conflict, which is the basis of the next dysfunction.
Fear of Conflict
Team members who do not trust each another will not be willing to engage in passionate, unfiltered debates - or brainstorming - which is the creative basis of all enterprises. There is another, more insidious type of conflict that can slowly tear a team apart - back channel politics, aka gossip, and a façade of harmony.
No one can agree on everything all the time but, Lencioni says, a team that trusts will allow each member to have his or her say when there's a disagreement. All issues can be worked through, regardless of how tough they are.
Lack of Commitment
Lencioni explodes a common myth, that people need to get their way to be highly committed. As long as employees feel their point of view has been considered and they were part of the decision-making process, they will be committed to decisions even if they didn't initially feel that way. Commitment is important because it drives accountability.
Avoidance of Accountability
Contrary to the common perception that accountability is a one-way street - a top-down process - Lencioni stresses an effective team is one where accountability is peer driven. Thus, team members hold each other accountable and answerable for collective as well as individual performance. Leaders can publish goals and standards so that it is common knowledge within the team as well as ensure that rewards are tied to team achievements to boost peer accountability.
Inattention to Results
It's not about your own career but about working with others to achieve common goals. So to make sure the team keeps on the straight and narrow, Lencioni suggests that team leaders create a results-based reward system, which may be done by publicly declaring results within the team.
The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team is not only a must-read for leaders and entrepreneurs; it's a practical guide for teams that want to raise their collective performance and achieve their targets - together.
Mukti Shah is a Clinical Psychologist, Corporate Consultant and an accredited Entrepreneurial Motivation Trainer.
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