Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

A Great Read for Any Aspiring Team Leader

Patrick Lencioni is the American founder of The Table Group, a well-respected management consultancy based in San Francisco. He is a well-known author of management, leadership, teamwork, and organisational health books. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is his most famous.

Like all his books, this one begins with a fable in which Kathryn, the new CEO of a tech company, is presented with a highly dysfunctional team. Her challenge is to get them aligned and working better as a team.

Kathryn initially holds a team off-site in which she presents her model for the five dysfunctions of a team. After plenty of initial scepticism, some team members decide to leave, some stay, but ultimately the team becomes aligned, trusts in the model and becomes a more efficient team.

That’s a very brief overview of the fable part of the book. The second part of the book goes into more detail around the model itself.

I really like Patrick’s writing style and the way he always begins with a fable. It makes his books more approachable. So many management books are ‘dry’ and lack any sort of personal connection. Reading them can be a chore. Not so with Patrick’s books. They are short, concise and engaging and I recommend every leader and team member reads them. If you’re only going to read one though, this book should be it.

His model is a simple but accurate model for understanding teamwork and can be applied to all industries. Briefly, the five dysfunctions are:

  • Absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict
  • Lack of commitment
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Inattention to results

I won’t go into the detail of the model here. You should read the book because Patrick can explain it better than me of course. It’s his model.

Perhaps the biggest point for me though is ‘fear of conflict’. This is such a common issue in companies and I understand why. Nobody likes conflict and nobody wants to become enemies. But conflict is essential if a team is going to perform at its best. Conflict does not have to be a bad thing though. Dealt with properly, it can lead to better decision making and innovation. The trick is to approach it in the right way. Indeed, conflict resolution forms a large part of my team building workshops.

This book is a wonderful read for both new and experienced managers. Everyone can learn from its teachings. Yes, some people might say that these concepts are obvious. True. But so many leaders still struggle with them on a daily basis. So, although they are somewhat obvious, having them presented in this way makes them more approachable and memorable. The result is greater acceptance.