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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, 20th Anniversary Edition Hardcover – Organizer, April 11, 2002
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The New York Times best-selling team leadership handbook for modern executives, managers, and organizations
After her first two weeks observing the problems at DecisionTech, Kathryn Petersen, its new CEO, had more than a few moments when she wondered if she should have taken the job. But Kathryn knew there was little chance she would have turned it down. After all, retirement had made her antsy, and nothing excited her more than a challenge. What she could not have known when she accepted the job, however, was just how dysfunctional her team was, and how team members would challenge her in ways that no one ever had before.
For twenty years, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has been engaging audiences with a page-turning, realistic fable that follows the travails of Kathryn Petersen, DecisionTech’s CEO, as she faces the ultimate leadership crisis. She must unite a team in such disarray that it threatens to derail the entire company.
Equal parts leadership fable and business handbook, this definitive source on teamwork by Patrick Lencioni reveals the five behavioral tendencies that go to the heart of why even the best teams struggle. He offers a powerful model and step-by-step guide for overcoming those dysfunctions and getting every one rowing in the same direction.
Today, the lessons in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team are more relevant than ever. This special anniversary edition celebrates one of the best-selling business books of all time with a new foreword from the author that reflects on its legacy and lessons.
From the brand
From the Publisher
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Model
Like it or not, all teams are potentially dysfunctional. This is inevitable because they are made up of fallible, imperfect human beings. From the basketball coach to the executive suite, politics and confusion are more the rule than the exception. However, facing dysfunction and focusing on teamwork is particularly critical at the top of an organization because the executive team sets the tone for how all employees work with one another. Fortunately, there is hope. Counter to conventional wisdom, the causes of dysfunction are both identifiable and curable. The first step toward reducing politics and confusion within your team is to understand that there are five dysfunctions to contend with, and address each that applies, one by one.
DYSFUNCTION #1: ABSENCE OF TRUST
The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents building of trust within the team.
DYSFUNCTION #2: FEAR OF CONFLICT
The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive, ideological conflict.
DYSFUNCTION #3: LACK OF COMMITMENT
The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to.
DYSFUNCTION #4: AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable for their behaviors and performance.
DYSFUNCTION #5: INATTENTION TO RESULTS
The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.
From Publishers Weekly
- Publisher : Jossey-Bass; 1st edition (April 11, 2002)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 229 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0787960756
- ISBN-13 : 978-0787960759
- Item Weight : 14 ounces
- Dimensions : 8.75 x 6 x 1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2018
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The first problem is Lencioni as an author. He presents his case first in the form of a short story that has a 100% happy ending for Kathryn, the newly hired leader and protagonist of the story. It's a self-centered tale told from only a single point of view that gives no insight into the consequences of Kathryn's decisions one way or the other.
The second problem is Kathryn is treated as a cipher for good management, though she does not demonstrate it. In this very, very short story, Kathryn manipulates her way around her team, figuring out how to push their buttons to get them to do what she wants. Rather than coming out and requiring specific performance and being open about what she sees, Kathryn engages in double-talk, withholds valuable information, openly plays favorites, happily creates chaos, and gets a pat on the back from a board member who never holds her accountable. If I didn't know better, I would think the author was acting out some kind of fantasy to heal old wounds at a failed management endeavor.
The final problem is that the book and its points are utterly obtuse. The story consumes 80% of the book. The worksheet and associated instructions comprise the remaining 20%. This is less required reading and more a fatally flawed jumping off point to terrible management.
The book specifically suggests:
- A team can achieve anything if they're "all rowing in the same direction." While it's a cute sentiment, it does nothing to actually explain the vision of this book.
- Managers should be free to cut each other down, as long as its done via calling out someone on their missed deadlines (even though they are not personally responsible for managing those deadlines), and other passive-aggressive tactics.
- Everyone should reveal deep personal details about themselves, ignoring all respect for privacy. (For those who think this point is harsh, remember that Lencioni's innocent low-risk questions only apply to people who are perfect. For anyone who is an actual human, being interrogated about details that have no place in a work environment is deeply disrespectful and borderline psychpathic.)
- It should be up to anyone but the actual boss to decide what the goals are. Just think for a minute about how well this would fly at Apple or Tesla.
- Everyone should sacrifice their personal goals in favor of the "team" goals. That's right. You don't get to think about your career. You don't get to decide what is and what is not best for you. Don't like it? Get out. Why would anyone ever want to work for a boss who thinks like that? That's a team killer is what it is. It's a philosophy of pure poison.
This is a book written by a mediocre consultant who will help you achieve mediocre results at best. This book is the opposite of "A players want to work with A players." It's a cast of B and C players who behave more like children than professionals. It's simply not realistic.
Mickey is the perpetual debbie downer who rolls her eyes at everything. Sorry, if Mickey was this bad in real life she would not have risen to the level she is at. Here's a more realistic picture: if I were Mickey I would roll my eyes, too. She's absolutely justified in the contempt she has for the clueless board above her, and for her do-nothing co-workers. The story admits that Mickey produces outstanding marketing material. She's quick, efficient, and she takes great care of her team. Even when she's facing termination for insubordination, she deftly negotiates herself a severance. Yet the story throws Mickey under the bus and paints her as a toxic saboteur instead of the A player she is.
Martin the senior engineer slash developer is another A player ground into submission by Kathryn who admits -- ADMITS -- she does not understand technology and has never led a technology company before. Yet, here she is, telling Martin how to do his job and publicly chastising him for using his laptop during a meeting -- something Martin points out is standard procedure and doesn't bother anyone but Kathryn. This is poison! A leader should be intimately familiar with a company's products, inside and out. Do you think Elon Musk doesn't know how batteries work? Do you think Carly Fiorina doesn't know how toner and fusers work? (Well, maybe she doesn't. She single handedly ruined HP.) The point is, no one can respect a leader who doesn't have at least a general understanding of what she's been asked to lead.
The rest of the cast is what you would expect from a mediocre team: a manager who can't manage unless he has a bullet point agenda, a do-it-all guy who has no initiative of his own, a couple of D- level people who only left because they were probably hired by C- level managers. Everyone sounds like a desperately out of touch boomer or generally clueless GenX at best. There is no trace here of actual managers you might encounter in your career. It's grotesque in its poor representation of what a modern team looks like.
This is a book that tells a convenient story in favor of a consultant's business proposition. It's more than a little like a proselytizer who also happens to sell Bibles. In other words, this book is snake oil. Like other reviews have pointed out, there's no data to back up the book's assertions. There is no real world analysis and comparison. There is no admittance of flaw anywhere. This is a book that teaches leaders to demonstrate vulnerability, but presents itself as utterly invulnerable. Lencioni is God, and this is his Infallible Word.
Actually, I encourage you to buy and read this book. While it won't help you succeed, it will help you recognize incompetence (especially in consultants) and avoid it.
Update: I took this book back to the people who recommended it to me. I asked them what specific lessons they absorbed and put into practice in their own companies. After some awkwardness, I found that no one actually implemented anything from this book. They just read it and fell for the glowing story. This book isn't a treatise, or even a lesson. It's fan-fic that CEOs and entrepreneurs drool over the same way your assistant drools over new office supplies.
It took me four hours to read this book. That's four hours I'm never getting back.
Five Dysfunctions popped up on my radar a couple of years ago and ever since then a number of people suggested I should read it. It was published back in 2002 and there seems to be quite an industry that's grown around it with addional handbooks and resources available. For me, this wasn't a good sign.
Then a client lent me a copy so I started on a plane trip home from Sydney and finsihed the book in three short sittings. It's a nicely crafted story: short chapters, cliff hangers, good dialogue and believable and messy business situations.
Most of Five Dysfunctions is a business story. About a third of the book, at the end, describes the five dysfunctions model. The story is about Kathryn who joins DecionTech as their new CEO. The executive team is a bit of a mess and they don't welcome her with open arms. Kathryn starts a process of conversations and straight talking at a series offsites and team meetings and engages the Executive in understanding a simple model showing what needs to happen to turn their group into a team.
Like all good models it's nice and simple and can be drawn on a whiteboard.
Each part of the model is interlocked. It's pointless working on one part without addressing the others.
One of the real advantages of learning about the model as a story is that you hear from the characters ask and answer questions. You are a fly on the wall of an executive team and you learn through their experiences. This experiential learning is then reinforced with the didactic chapter at the end of the book.
Here's how Kathryn describes the five dysfunctions.
Absence of Trust: "Great teams do not hold back with one another." "They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal."
Fear of conflict:"If we don't trust each other, then we aren't going to engage in open, constructive, idealogical conflict. And we'll just continue to preserve a sense of artifical harmony."
Lack of commitment: "I'm talking about commitment to a plan or a decision, and getting everyone to buy into it. That's why conflict is so important." "It's as simple as this. When people don't unload their opinions and feel like theyre been listen to, they wont really get on board."
Avoidance of accountability: "Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, it is then that we have to hold each other accountable for what we have signed up to do, for high standards of performance and behaviour. And as simple as that sounds, most executives hate to do it, especially when it comes to a peer's behaviour, because they want to avoid interpersonal discomfort."
The last dysfunction, Inattention to Results, is all about putting the team before individual egos. This issue is handled over a number of chapters at the end of the fable but I wont go into detail and spoil the surprise.
What I really liked about this book was just how well written the story was so are immersed in the world of an executive team and see the tensions and compromises, their good itent and judgements, and how conflict arises and can play out. There're plenty of models of good and poor behaviour, and our hero, Kathryn, shows us one way progress can be made.
What struck me most was just how much time is needed for an effective team to spend together planning, discussing, arguing. The perenial push back to spending this time, however, is that tired business phrase, "we just need to get back to the real work." Well, here's the breaking news for any executive who wants their company to excel: it's your first priority to build an effective executive team so it can draw on all its talents to achieve results.
I loved this book and have been recommending it all over the place. Get a copy, read it, then pass it on to another executive who you think really needs to get their team back on track.
Top reviews from other countries
It;’s easy to read and I’m sure you will recognise many of the characters and dysfunctions, in fact you have probably worked with many of them.
I brought 14 to accompany our leadership programmes and it was met with resounding approval!
Here’s their feedback....
What have I not learnt from this book is a better question!
Good, easy to read and very thought provoking.
More interesting than any other leadership book I’ve read!
It doesng to into unnecessary detail which kept me really engaged from start to finish.
It just makes sense as well. And I can really identify all of this with my work situation. As an HR Manager I found this really useful in approaching a pretty similar situation and articulating what I have identified in a really straightforward and clear way. Thank you Patick Lencioni!
Very powerful way of letting you the reader grasp the concepts and immediately relate them to you past / present of future roles.