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HALL OF FAMEon October 22, 2003
By dedicating 90% of his book to a so-called leadership fable, Patrick Lencioni very effectively conveys the very essence of the model he proposes in order to deal with dysfunctional teams. Though the story he presents is that of a hypothetical newly appointed CEO of a distressed start-up and (in the beginning of the story) her highly dysfunctional executive team, the model is perfectly applicable to any team throughout most organizations.
The model consists of a pyramid with the five dysfunctions of a team (from the bottom, up):
1) Absence of trust: stemming from an unwillingness in the team members to be vulnerable and genuinely open up with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses.
2) Fear of conflict: inability to engage in unfiltered, passionate (yet constructive, though it may strike you as odd) debate.
3) Lack of commitment: no buy in and commitment can be expected when ideas and opinions have not been aired and genuinely taken into consideration prior to a decision.
4) Avoidance of accountability: without commitment to a clearly defined set of goals, team members will hesitate to call their colleagues on their actions and behaviors that are counterproductive for the team.
5) Inattention to results: Lencioni brings it all home through the realization that avoidance of accountability leads to a state where team members tend to put their individual needs above the team's collective goals.
Throughout the last leg of his book, Lencioni contrasts how dysfunctional teams behave by comparing them to a cohesive team in the case of each of the five dysfunctions. He also provides suggestions on overcoming each of the dysfunctions and insights into the role of the leader in this process, all in a very structured and to-the-point way. Complementing this, he provides a Team Assessment tool to help determine where your team is at in terms of each of the five elements of the model.
As much as the book can be digested without too much trouble in 2-3 straight hours, it is inevitable (unless you are fooling yourself or you operate in a very healthy team) to have your managerial wheels in your mind turning at full speed by the time you are done with it. As a manager and an avid reader, I welcomed this book with open arms because I found it to be very useful and readily applicable. Now comes my challenge in putting it to use.
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on April 11, 2002
This book is helpful to anyone who serves on a team and specifically helpful for team leaders. You will see yourself and your team in this book. More than that, you will find specific steps you can take to make your team better. Through a real life fable, Pat leads you through the steps you need to take to move a team from dysfunction to health. You will find a clear model as well as examples that are as relevant as your last meeting.
As I read this book I discovered:
1. A vocabulary I can use with my team to discuss dysfunction.
2. A self-analysis that will get the discussion started.
3. A clear model for implementation.
As a team leader, this book challenged me to:
1) Lead selflessly
2) Take risks
3) Encourage conflict
4) Embrace the power of meetings
4) Direct my team around a common theme
This book is simple, practical and filled with wisdom. Highly recommended.
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on December 27, 2006
I found this book to be Patrick's best - An easy read with a great structure for keeping your team healthy. Strongly recommended if your team has more then its fair share of politics. If you have this, start at the first dysfunction and work your way up!

Summary - A start up has just hired a new CEO, an older woman with operational experience in bricks-and-mortar companies where she had to deal with a dysfunctional team, including one especially venomous worker.

The framework of the 5 Dysfunctions:

* The first dysfunction is an Absence of Trust. This happens when team members are not open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses.
* This sets the tone for the second dysfunction - The Fear of Conflict. Teams that lack trust are unable to engage in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.
* The lack of healthy conflict is a problem because leads to the third dysfunction - Lack of Commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members, rarely, if ever buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.
* Because of this lack of commitment, team members develop the fourth dysfunction - Avoidance of Accountability. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
* Failure to hold one another accountable create an environment that leads to the fifth dysfunction - Inattention to Results, which can thrive where individuals put their needs (ego, career development, or recognition) above that of the team.

Some additional nice bits from the book:

* Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is impossible.
* Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.
* Teams that lack trust spend inordinate amounts of time and energy managing their behavior and interactions within the group.
* Members of teams with an absence of trust: Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another, Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback, Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility, Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others, without trying to clarify them, Fail to recognize and tap into one another's skills and experiences, Waste time and energy managing their behaviors for effect, Hold grudges, and Dread meetings and spend time to avoid spending time together
* Vulnerability based trust cannot happen overnight. It requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility, and an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of team members.
* Leader must risk losing face and being vulnerable in front of the team so that the team can do likewise.
* It's ironic that so many people avoid conflict in the name of efficiency when healthy conflict saves so much time compared to back-channel attacks and maneuvering.
* Teams that fear conflict: Have boring meetings, Create environments where back-channel politics thrive, Ignore controversial topics that are critical to the team success, and Fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members
* Monuments of truth are best handled by face-to-face, not email.
* Big issue "a fractured team is like a fractured bone; fixing it is always painful and sometimes you have to re-break it to heal it fully. And the re-break always hurts more because it is intentional"
* "it is very possible that some of us here won't find the new company to be the kind of place where we want to be"
* 2 rules of a meeting: be present and participate.
* Questions to know people better: Hometown. Number of kids. Childhood hobbies. Biggest challenge in growing up, first job, etc.
* Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think.
* No trust = No Open Conversation = Artificial Harmony.
* If people don't unload, they won't get on board.
* Listen, Assess, then DO!
* Disagree and Commit!
* Every great movie (meeting) has conflict.
* You will fight - about issues. But that is your job.
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on December 26, 2002
This is a genuinely significant book for anyone who works in a team environment, whether at work, in sports, in the community, at home, etc. Of all the business books I have read on team building, "Five Dysfunctions" stands at the top of the pack. The strength of this book lies in the fact that it gets at the ROOTS of team failure. Anyone who has been forced to go through corporate "team building" sessions and sing with their fellow co-workers knows that it is an approach that doesn't work! The principles presented in "Five Dysfunctions" are solid and will get results.
The organization of "Five Dysfunctions" is as follows. The bulk of the book comprises of an extended fictitious example of a dysfunctional group, and slowly works through the underlying principles. These principles are then succinctly presented in the last few pages of the book, along with further analysis and suggestions on implementation. This organization allows the principles to slowly sink in through the book, but then gives the reader a very focused section the use for later reference and review.
A great strength of the book is that it avoids the all-too-frequent tendency of creating tension and then resolving it more quickly than would happen in real life. Reading the story gives you a sense of the effort needed to work through the dysfunctions of a team. The tools are presented to the reader, but without the illusion of a quick fix. Rather, "Five Dysfunctions" gives a simple message that inspires, energizes, and creates a vision of hope for how thing could be in a team.
One "a-ha" experience I had while reading this book is that some of the teams I have been on - teams where we all got along just fine - shared at least some of the five dysfunctions which made them less than effective. While these teams were quite accomplished at the superficial types of team building activities that are so popular, we avoided the core issues that Lencioni discusses in his book.
This book is one that I will review often, and recommend to anyone.
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on January 27, 2013
This is a very short read. It took me about 3 hours to read the book over-to-cover, and I did not feel as if I skimmed over any major concepts.

The book is written as a novel, in which a new highly effective CEO is placed in charge of an extremely dysfunctional silicon valley startup company. The CEO takes the executive team to a leadership retreat where she teaches them about teamwork and the five major dysfunctions of a team.

The five major dysfunctions as stated by the book are:

1) Absence of Trust
2) Fear of Conflict
3) Lack of Commitment
4) Avoidance of Accountability
5) Inattention to results

At first the team is very skeptical of the CEO, and generally feels that the entire retreats are a waste of time. Gradually the CEO wins over each member of the team, and over the course of the 'novel' (warning: spoiler), fires a team member and re-organizes the executive team to better match the needs of the organization.

Ok, now for my criticisms of the book...

My first criticism - this reads like a cheezy TBS movie, where a new woman CEO wins over her team with compassion and competence. I have nothing against the general message of the author's novel, but in real life, people simply don't open up as personally as they do in this novel. The entire 'case study' feels canned and artificial.

For example, when Kathryn, the new CEO takes over the company, the former CEO, Jeff, goes to a VP of Biz Development role. By the end of the book, he's so committed to the teamwork mentality that he voluntarily demotes himself, so that he is no longer an executive level staff member, and he reports to the COO as director of Biz Development.... I worked in a number of different companies and frankly, this would *never* happen. No self-respecting CEO would demote themselves two levels for the sake of teamwork...

In another scene, Kathryn fires the VP of marketing. This added some credibility to the book, but there was quite a bit of writing focusing on the dialogue and thoughts of the characters in a dramatic fashion. Personally, I found this type of writing distracting. While at some level, many working in middle management might be able to relate to this kind of event, personally I don't need the 'entertainment factor' of dramatic dialogue and canned thoughts and would prefer that the author focused on providing criteria by which to judge if team members are willing to work within his framework or not (which was not presented by the way).

My second criticism - I could forgive the novel style writing, but my second major issue with the book is that I question its core message of teamwork.

Yes, you heard me correctly, I have no idea how the author developed his so-called pyramid of teamwork, whether its based on empirical data, or just his personal observations from consulting. While the 5 dysfunctions certainly sound important, perhaps only 1 or 2 (i.e. trust, fear of conflict) of them are truly of strategic importance to teamwork, and the other 3 relate to personal management style of leaders (i.e. inattention of results). Frankly, I'm not sure how well thought out the pyramid is at all.

The worst part is, everything in the book is fiction.... so it's no wonder that the CEO, Kathryn, is able to turn around the company as soon as her executive team embraces the great pyramid of truth... again cheezy TBS movie material.

At the time that I purchased this book, I also purchased two other books on leadership... one of the others is a book that I'd highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject, and that is - 'Lincoln on Leadership.' The book details Abraham Lincoln's ability to lead the Union to victory during the Civil War, and specifically focuses on his management style through a fairly meticulous reading of letters, speeches, and historical records.

Lincoln is a great case study, because first everything that happened is REAL, and second he was dealt an almost impossible hand of cards. He initially was elected to president with a minority of the national vote (plurality of several candidates), people felt at the time that he was a 'second-rate country lawyer' and had little faith in his ability to solve seemingly intractable problems between the North and South, numerous politicians attempted to undermine his executive authority related to the war effort or diplomacy with the South, former generals and members of his own cabinet even ran against him as a presidential candidate either in the first election or his second re-election.

I read the Lincoln book immediately before reading Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions, and what struck me was that Lincoln's team probably violated almost every rule in Lencioni's book. In short, he probably had one of the most dysfunctional teams imaginable, and yet is widely regarded by historians as the greatest among US Presidents and leaders.

While I think teamwork is important, I'm not certain that Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions, really captures the essence of aligning people to achieve a particular objective, nor am I certain how well thought out the pyramid of teamwork is.

I'm surprised by how highly rated this book is. I guess it's easy to read - 3 hours tops, has some entertainment value so it doesn't feel like work, and you may have the illusion that you learned something from reading it, but I'm very much a skeptic.

So far the best leadership book I've come across is Lincoln on Leadership, and having read it, I'm intrigued enough to follow up with Goodwin's Team of Rivals in the near future.
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on August 7, 2006
While there is nothing wrong with the material presented, one cannot believe this is all there is to it.

Making Teams work involves a considerable investment of time and energy, and also depends on the circumstances. Under pressure of an immediate threat - even adversaries can band together into a tight cohesive team. When such threats are gone - they fall back to natural behaviors, and dysfunction can set it.

The 5 dysfunctions - Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results - these are only the basics.

There are other important factors that make teams function or dysfunction, 3 of which are:

Common and time bound goals
Mutual respect
Skill sets to get the job done

Enjoy the book - it is an easy read, but keep in mind there is more to making teams work effectively!
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on October 2, 2010
I read this book because my husband's CEO gave it to the company's managers. I love to read management philosophy and tend toward systemic, evidence driven approaches such as TPS, Six sigma and Hoshin Kanri. This book was completely absurd. It was written to sell and tells CEO's exactly what they want to hear - that their managers are paranoid children who cannot behave like adults and must be spanked into submission, (though he offers absolutely NO solutions on how to do this). There was virtually no mention of leadership, accountability or utilizing real data. In one fable, the CEO fires an excellent and productive employee for her bad attitude after only a short time. This was a leadership issue that requires a real "LEADER" to resolve. Blaming your managers for what I deem to be 5 character "quirks" as opposed to examining real organizational issues such as forked lines of communication, inefficient processes, organizational and systemic waste and root cause problem solving is an attempt at deflecting blame and avoiding accountability and refinement of the complex adaptive system that IS an organization. I have been the CEO of my company for 5 years and have NEVER resorted to such pathetic, superficial stereotypes to solve my organization's problems. If you liked this book - then you simply don't want to be responsible for the problems in your company and your own mistakes which have contributed to them and are looking for any excuse to blame someone else. If this guy did work for AT&T, then I know why my calls continue to drop at alarming rate; no root cause problem solving because the company is too busy performing trust falls.

Check out the articles in HBR and books by Steven Spear. Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition and How Great Companies Can Catch Up and Win, Foreword by Clay Christensen The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition Dr. Spear's writing is leadership and organizational strategy at its finest. Also check our the HBR article on the leadership principles of Paul O'Neill, former Alcoa CEO. He is a superb and wise leader who led Alcoa's 150,000 employees to complete transparency and a 0% work related injury/illness rate.
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on August 15, 2013
Like many popular books aimed at the business community, this is a simple, short and easy-to-read tale which describes itself as a fable.

Super CEO Katheryn middle aged yet wonderful and wise joins a two-year old technology start-up which despite wonderful this and that is struggling. Katheryn has no high tec knowledge or background.

Katheryn soon decides that the management team is exhibiting the five dysfunctions of a team, and through a series of (mainly off-site) meetings and exercises turns things around, and teaches the team to be functional and they all live happily ever after (the IPO presumably).

The reason for my scepticism is the complete lack of empirical data to support Lencioni's ideas on the five dysfunctions listed in the book. How does Patrick Lencioni know there are five dysfunctions and not three or seven? Answer - he uses his own experience, and nothing more.

What research does he cite in support of his thesis that the most important dysfunction is an "abscence of trust."? The answer is none.

I could continue but sympathetic readers will understand my point. This is yet another anecdotal, pseudo-scientific business book, of questionable accuracy and limited use. Strange how such a `hard-boiled' and `no-nonsense' and `in the real world' audience continuously buys and enjoys this kind of stuff. Hey ho.
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on June 25, 2006
We see ourselves, at arm's length, in "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team". Safely in someone else's story, we get a glimpse of our own team; sometimes all too close for comfort.

Once again, Lencioni uses the modern fable to make his points. In a very effective way, he diagnoses symptoms of teams in trouble:

1. Absence of Trust

2. Fear of Conflict

3. Lack of Commitment

4. Avoidance of Accountability

5. Inattention to Results

These are flaws of malfunctioning teams and are brought to life in a "leadership fable" which tells the tale using Kathryn Petersen, new CEO of DecisionTech.

One of the things I found interesting is that if Lencioni is correct, the inverse of his hypothesis should also be true. Well-functioning, healthy teams should be built upon the opposite traits: Trust, Candor, Commitment, Accountability, and Results. Perhaps building those traits will be the subject of one of his next insightful books.
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on August 24, 2003
Although I really liked the focus by Lencioni on trust and conflict, I felt that too much emphasis was placed on explaining in detail trust issues and using conflict creatively and not enough on examples and concrete advice on several ways to create trust and encourage creative conflict. In other words, I would have liked less on definitions and more on solutions. Ultimately teams will also suceed or fail based on the composition of the team and their personalities and how they interact. Communication skills, listening, learning styles, clarity are needed by team members. It is possible that the players are the wrong players and how do we know which ones and what and how strong their dysfuctions are? The Myers-Briggs is a start, but with the wrong players the team skill sets and training don't work (there are 3 or 4 great tests that will help build team). I wish he had spent more time on those issues. The last few pages of the book are very powerful and Lencioni demonstrates a wonderful grasp of ways to fix teams. The exceptional storybook style and then the more common business book style give all types of readers a way to relate to his message. We are a nation of story tellers and Lencioni tells a very compelling story; as a matter of fact, United States uses storytelling as a way of illustrating points more than any nation in the world!
In business we continually experience the issue of "lack of creative conflict" and I feel it is a bigger problem than any of the other 4, because we do not like to rock the boat. Lencioni does an exceptional job in strongly making that case and illustrating it well.
One of the most powerful things that Lencioni pointed out was that teams must be loyal to the team and not undermine team loyalty...we do this by placing the needs of our department or division ahead of the teams! Teams need to really believe that they have a common fate and not just a common goal! This was the most powerful book I have read on team dysfunctions. I liked it so much that I reviewed it in my monthly newsletter. It captures the essence of why teams fail and presents it in a clear and entertaining style.
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