• Anish Hindocha

The Five Dysfunctions of a team - Patrick Lencioni

You may be aware of that thing that happens when something you learn or obtain, enters your consciousness and you start to see it everywhere. For example, when you buy a new car, and you start to see the same make and model everywhere. It is almost as if your eyes were closed before that point. I think it's called the Frequency Illusion or the Baader-Meinhof principle.

Can it apply to books too? Has there been a book that accelerated its way to the top of your reading list, simply because you started to see it everywhere? That seemed to be the case with '5 Dysfunctions of a Team'. I think 8 to 10 people mentioned it to me be in around 2 months, so I went ahead and bought the book, written by Patrick Lencioni.

I have loved studying team dynamics from very early on in my professional career. I'd often be curious about why a certain individual would choose to sit in the same corner of the same meeting room each week. I later understood it was often because they got the best vantage point from which to evaluate the body language of others without being studied themselves.


And team dynamics are exactly what this book is about. Told in fictional form, it introduces us to a company called 'Design Tech' who should really be doing better in their market but are failing. The incumbent CEO is dropped to the bench and replaced with an outsider with no knowledge of the industry but a track record of building great teams.

Without giving away the plot, I found it a really easy read. At less than 200 pages, It's the first book I've finished in 2 to 3 days for a long while. The author uses the dynamics between team members to illustrate a number of dysfunctions, these are shown here to the left.

Patrick Lencioni weaves a path through each of these with some poise it has to be said. He uses existing friction between team members to illustrate how trust is eroded by people not speaking up.

The executive team in the story have a tendency to hide behind their own specialisms. So for example, the CTO rarely gets challenged, the Brand Executive is too often side-lined, and the CFO is only concerned with managing the cost line and...well... you get the idea. They are not what anyone would call high performing.

It is against this backdrop where we learn, through our protagonists the value of playing to the team's strengths, and being bought in to an overall team goal. And finally, how it is possible with the right leadership, to undo years of turf-wars.

There's a particular point in the narrative where Kathryn the CEO says to her team

"What I'm trying to ask you is whether you think the this team is as important to you as the teams you lead, your departments"

And that hit home for me. Many of the organisations where I have worked have suffered from what I might call loose teamwork at the leadership level. Where each leader identifies far more closely with their own direct reports than they do with their peers.

All in all, whilst the story is entirely fictional as far as I know, coming from a financial services background at least, it does feel all too familiar. And at the time of writing I am evaluating the 'Five Behaviours Model' to incorporate into my own work on helping clients to improve 'workplace culture'.

If you're a facilitator, a trainer or a coach looking for a book to educate and entertain, then this is worth picking up. It's a fable and a reference book all at once, and despite some of it's more simplified, and occasionally fantasised assertions around behaviour, I think it's well worth a look.

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