The 5 dysfunctions of a Team


Team dysfunctionThe Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a business book by consultant and speaker Patrick Lencioni. It describes the many pitfalls that teams face as they seek to “row together”.

The book explores the fundamental causes of organisational politics and team failure. It outlines the root causes of politics and dysfunction on the teams where people work, and the keys to overcoming them. Counter to conventional wisdom, the causes of dysfunction are both identifiable and curable. However, they don’t die easily. Making a team functional and cohesive requires levels of courage and discipline that many groups cannot seem to muster.

Lencioni suggests the reasons why teams are dysfunctional  is because they are made up of human beings with varied interests and frailties. When you put them together and leave them to their own devices, even the most well-intentioned people will usually deviate toward dysfunctional, unproductive behaviour. And because most Leaders and Managers are not schooled in the art of building teams, small problems are left untreated and spiral further and further into ugliness and politics.


The Model

5 dysfunctions of a TeamDysfunction 1: Absence of Trust

The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.

Ways of approaching interventions Lencioni suggests are:

  • Sharing personal histories
  • The team looking at team effectiveness exercises
  • The team completing personality and behavioural profiles
  • Individuals getting 360 feedback

Dysfunction  2: Fear of Conflict

The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict, and manifest themselves in veiled discussions and guarded comments. All strong relationships that last over time require productive conflict in order to grow

Intervention suggestions include:

  • “Mining discussions”: the ability to extract buried disagreements and expose them. This may need outside support to go through with enough safety
  • Real time permission; being uncomfortable is OK!
  • Conflict assessment tools

Dysfunction  3: Lack of Commitment

The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to. Strong teams move forward with buy in from all, even those who disagree with the decision because they have aired opinions in passionate and open debate

Intervention suggestions include:

  • Clear and honoured deadlines
  • Contingency and worst case scenario analysis
  • Review key decisions made and how these will be communicated consistently through the organisation

Dysfunction  4: Avoidance of Accountability

The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable, and committing to a clear plan of action for the whole team and the individuals in the Team.

Intervention suggestions include:

  • Clear publication of goals and standards
  • Simple and regular progress reviews
  • Team rewards

Dysfunction  5: Inattention to Results

The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success; inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs of the needs of their area of the business above the collective goals of the Team.

Intervention suggestions include:

  • Public declaration of results
  • Results based rewards




The 12 “C”s of Team Building

The ideas are from an article entitled “twelve tips for team building: how to build successful work teams” by Susan M. Heathfield

People in every workplace talk about building the team, working as a team, and my team, but few understand how to create the experience of team work or how to develop an effective team. Belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself. It has a lot to do with your understanding of the mission or objectives of your organisation.

In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. You work with fellow members of the organization to produce these results. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other organization members to accomplish the overall objectives. The bigger picture drives your actions; your function exists to serve the bigger picture.

You need to differentiate this overall sense of teamwork from the task of developing an effective intact team that is formed to accomplish a specific goal. People confuse the two team building objectives. This is why so many team building seminars, meetings, retreats and activities are deemed failures by their participants. Leaders failed to define the team they wanted to build. Developing an overall sense of team work is different from building an effective, focused work team when you consider team building approaches.

Twelve Cs for Team Building

Executives, Managers and staff members universally explore ways to improve business results.  Many view team-based, horizontal, organization structures as the best design for involving all employees in creating business success. No matter what you call your team-based improvement effort: continuous improvement, total quality, lean manufacturing or self-directed work teams, you are striving to improve results for customers. Few organisations, however, are totally pleased with the results their team improvement efforts produce. If your team improvement efforts are not living up to your expectations, this self-diagnosing checklist may tell you why. Successful team building, that creates effective, focused work teams, requires attention to each of the following.

  • Clear Expectations: Has executive leadership clearly communicated its expectations for the team’s performance and expected outcomes? Do team members understand why the team was created? Is the organization demonstrating constancy of purpose in supporting the team with resources of people, time and money? Does the work of the team receive sufficient emphasis as a priority in terms of the time, discussion, attention and interest directed its way by executive leaders?
  • Context: Do team members understand why they are participating on the team? Do they understand how the strategy of using teams will help the organisation attain its communicated business goals? Can team members define their team’s importance to the accomplishment of corporate goals? Does the team understand where its work fits in the total context of the organisation’s goals, principles, vision and values?
  • Commitment: Do team members want to participate on the team? Do team members feel the team mission is important? Are members committed to accomplishing the team mission and expected outcomes? Do team members perceive their service as valuable to the organisation and to their own careers? Do team members anticipate recognition for their contributions? Do team members expect their skills to grow and develop on the team? Are team members excited and challenged by the team opportunity?
  • Competence: Does the team feel that it has the appropriate people participating? (As an example, in a process improvement, is each step of the process represented on the team?) Does the team feel that its members have the knowledge, skill and capability to address the issues for which the team was formed? If not, does the team have access to the help it needs? Does the team feel it has the resources, strategies and support needed to accomplish its mission?
  • Charter: Has the team taken its assigned area of responsibility and designed its own mission, vision and strategies to accomplish the mission. Has the team defined and communicated its goals; its anticipated outcomes and contributions; its timelines; and how it will measure both the outcomes of its work and the process the team followed to accomplish their task? Does the leadership team or other coordinating group support what the team has designed?
  • Control: Does the team have enough freedom and empowerment to feel the ownership necessary to accomplish its charter? At the same time, do team members clearly understand their boundaries? How far may members go in pursuit of solutions? Are limitations (i.e. monetary and time resources) defined at the beginning of the project before the team experiences barriers and rework?Is the team’s reporting relationship and accountability understood by all members of the organisation? Has the organisation defined the team’s authority? To make recommendations? To implement its plan? Is there a defined review process so both the team and the organisation are consistently aligned in direction and purpose? Do team members hold each other accountable for project timelines, commitments and results?
  • Collaboration: Does the team understand team and group process? Do members understand the stages of group development? Are team members working together effectively interpersonally? Do all team members understand the roles and responsibilities of team members? Team leaders? Can the team approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting and measurement jointly? Do team members cooperate to accomplish the team charter? Has the team established group norms or rules of conduct in areas such as conflict resolution, consensus decision making and meeting management? Is the team using an appropriate strategy to accomplish its action plan?
  • Communication: Are team members clear about the priority of their tasks? Is there an established method for the teams to give feedback and receive honest performance feedback? Does the organization provide important business information regularly? Do the teams understand the complete context for their existence? Do team members communicate clearly and honestly with each other? Do team members bring diverse opinions to the table? Are necessary conflicts raised and addressed?
  • Creative Innovation: Is the organisation really interested in change? Does it value creative thinking, unique solutions, and new ideas? Does it reward people who take reasonable risks to make improvements? Or does it reward the people who fit in and maintain the status quo? Does it provide the training, education, access to books and films, and field trips necessary to stimulate new thinking?
  • Consequences: Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team achievements? Are rewards and recognition supplied when teams are successful? Is reasonable risk respected and encouraged in the organisation? Do team members fear reprisal? Do team members spend their time finger pointing rather than resolving problems? Is the organisation designing reward systems that recognize both team and individual performance? Is the organisation planning to share gains and increased profitability with team and individual contributors? Can contributors see their impact on increased organization success?
  • Coordination: Are teams coordinated by a central leadership team that assists the groups to obtain what they need for success? Have priorities and resource allocation been planned across departments? Do teams understand the concept of the internal customer—the next process, anyone to whom they provide a product or a service? Are cross-functional and multi-department teams common and working together effectively? Is the organisation developing a customer-focused process-focused orientation and moving away from traditional departmental thinking?
  • Cultural Change: Does the organisation recognize that the team-based, collaborative, empowering, enabling organisational culture of the future is different than the traditional, hierarchical organization it may currently be? Is the organisation planning to or in the process of changing how it rewards, recognizes, appraises, hires, develops, plans with, motivates and manages the people it employs?Does the organisation plan to use failures for learning and support reasonable risk? Does the organisation recognize that the more it can change its climate to support teams, the more it will receive in pay back from the work of the teams?

Another good and more in depth article on 17 secrets to improving team work is also worth a look at.

Creating Team values

Creating Team Values

Teams that perform well add tremendous value to organisations.  Nurturing and developing them is worth the time and effort.

Where they are the Leadership team for the organisation, the team has a significant  influence on the overall culture. It is through watching their leaders in action that people get their greatest clues about the behaviours that are critical to the organization’s success … more than all the plans and performance orientated posters!

Action Learning sets overview

Action Learning Sets

I have been involved running several Action Learning Sets over a number of years, both as a Facilitator and as a current member of two, and find them a wonderfully fluid and affirming way to develop.

This article explains the principle of Learning sets, how they work, the role of the Facilitator, along with a “sprinkling” of quotes from recent evaluations of people involved in Learning set programmes. Continue reading

Group conflict theory

Group conflict: the “shadow side”

Groups can have both a positive side, and there is evidence to show that individuals with some dysfunctionality can still collectively achieve tremendous things; the sum is greater than the parts. Groups can also have a negative side, which most people experience at some point as part of a group in their lives. Continue reading

Foundation Groups theory

Group Theory

There is the saying that “we come into the world alone, and leave alone and everything else is a gift”. Whilst our significant one to one relationships are crucial to our emotional wellbeing, it is an understanding of who we are with groups, family work or social, that is at least as important to good emotional health. The purpose of this article is to go through a few of the key theories around groups, how groups develop, group conflict, some personal thoughts and experiences, and signpost to additional resources.  Continue reading

Facilitation skills

Facilitation Skills

Facilitation literally means “to make easier” and provides a framework to solve a particular problem, gain consensus to a course of action, or mediate in a conflict. Its usually carried out in either a large or small group setting.

There are a number of approaches such as group work, Action Learning, “world café”, topic based or “free flow”. Continue reading

Teams and Groups

Teams and Groups

“The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organisation and team they work with and prioritised their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life”.

Stephen Covey

We all come across groups or teams in our places of work, our homes and our social life.

When people join together in any kind of group setting, it becomes a living and growing entity. Some people act quite differently in a group setting to the way they act with people 1-1, and can either thrive or struggle with the different dynamics and form that group relationships take to 1-1.

When people work together in a group, all sorts of things happen: allegiances are made, cliques formed within the wider group, there are issues around control and dominance, and sometimes “scapegoating” of an individual(s) can take place; this is what is referred to as the group process or group dynamic, and often gets overlooked in work settings for the apparent “chalice” of the task.

This section covers a range of areas including creating team values, facilitation and group conflict to help teams and groups manage and grow, and to help you support them in this work.

Please select the resources you are interested in from the menu on the right hand side.