Musings on Dysfunction

Posted: September 29, 2011 by Ty in Musings, Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The art of the business parable can be good or bad. Up until recently I had only ever liked was Fish!, but through the course on Spiritual Leadership at Rocky Mountain College I was introduced to a new writer, Patrick Lencioni. The work of his I first read and will be musing on is The Five Dysfunctions of Team: A Leadership Fable (2002). This fable around DecisionTech and their assumed fish out of water new CEO Kathryn takes the reader on a journey into what it means to be a healthy organization and sometimes the hardest choices are what makes one the happiest.

            There are five points and counterpoints that are explored as Kathryn reshapes a culture, and builds a team. The book itself is set up first with the fable, then the second piece being a more thorough exploration of the Model. The beauty of the work is the ease of access for any member of the team that is one does not need a B.Admin of M.B.A. to understand the lingo.

            So what are the lessons learned? Simply the five dysfunctional truths and that they need to be explored and revisited on a basis with one’s team to see where we all are. It is interesting how quickly lack of trust can lead to the shattering of any type of team, even those centered around simply power or profit.

            Lencioni on p. vii opens the readers mind up by stating “…teamwork remains the ultimate competitive advantage…” yet any team can be shattered when it is not healthy, for negativity spreads faster than palliative cancer in the body.

The Fable

            Two key points are raised by Kathryn when joining the executive team and that is language and assessment. The example that shows how culture is shaped by language, and then that culture reinforces the language is how her team members spoke of their departments as “their staff” not “their teams”.  For these became loaded connotations, the least of which not being that there was no connection for the betterment of the organization.

            The next being a need to assess the key team members to understand their strengths and weaknesses with an ultimate goal in hand that is regardless of how good they are at their job, are they the right person for the role.

            These two points were summarized in the team meeting on page 45 that clearly illustrated a lack of trust within the group that meant there was no healthy debate or dialogue to make the team or product better, just silent acquiescence to the status quo that was leading to failure.

The Model

            The model is a simple five point plan, and in parenthesis I share outworking of the point (Lencioni, p.97):

  • Lack of trust (manifested in invulnerability, that is the inability to be open with your team or be honest).
  • Fear of conflict (producing artificial harmony within the team even when there is no belief in what is happening).
  • Lack of commitment (ambiguity, because one does not want to arise conflict, or commit to the team, they are unwilling to take the step of faith to strive for excellence).
  • Avoidance of accountability (essentially standards are low—that is low expectation and high tolerances for incompetence).
  • Inattention to results (it is more about ensuring one’s own status and ego are preserved, than ensuring the right people are in the right positions for success).


            Lencioni’s easy to read style lends his works to self-study, and book group study to really delve into the truths opened up. The upside is that the Fable easily becomes transferable to whatever reality and wherever on the team you find yourself in.


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