The Sixth Dysfunction of a Team (with apology/appreciation to Patrick Lencioni)

Bob Morris has reviewed over 10 million books by now (ok – the actual number is over 2,000 – but if you get to know the man, you think he has read every book!  He is an amazing font of knowledge).  His reviews appear in a lot of places, including Amazon.com, and of course here on our blog.

So – here’s a question:  which of his reviews has been looked at more than any other on our blog?  It is his review of the Patrick Lencioni book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. (read his review here).   And it is not number one by a little bit – but by a whole lot.

The book is terrific.  I just checked, and at this moment, it is ranked in the top 650 in books over-all on Amazon, and is #1 in “teams,” #1 in “Human Resources & Personnel Management,” and #1 in “Entrepreneurship” among Amazon’s sales categories.  And, remember, the book came out in 2002.  Amazing!

Is it that good a book?  Yes.  I have presented my synopsis of the book, and it is always easily grasped, it is true to real-world circumstances, and it is always appreciated.

Here are the five dysfunctions of a team, from the book:

1.            Dysfunction one:  an absence of trust among team members. – (resulting problem:  invulnerability)
2.            Dysfunction two:  fear of conflict. — (resulting problem:  artificial harmony)
3.            Dysfunction three:  lack of commitment. — (resulting problem:  ambiguity)
4.            Dysfunction four:  an avoidance of accountability. — (resulting problem:  low standards)
5.            Dysfunction five:  inattention to results. — (resulting problem:  status and ego)


And here’s another way to look at this model:  imagine how members of truly cohesive teams behave:

1.              They trust one another.
2.              They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
3.              They commit to decisions and plans of action.
4.              They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans.
5.              They focus on the achievement of collective results.

So here is the question.  With its enduring popularity, is it really that good of a book, or, is it that building and maintaining a truly functional team is really that big of a problem? Though the book is terrific, I think the second is the real truth.

Whenever I speak about this book, or related subjects, I ask: Have you ever seen a dysfunctional team? Every hand goes up.  Always.  Dysfunctional teams are everywhere around us.  And, though many teams have been helped by reading this book, I suspect that the overall functionality of teams has not improved in the last eight years.

There are a lot of dysfunctional teams out there!

So, maybe the sixth dysfunction of a team is this:

• Dysfunction six:  a failure to recognize the likelihood of being a dysfunctional team. – (resulting problem:  blindness to reality)

If you are on a team; if you lead a team; never assume that you will be, and remain, functional.  You have to be intentional about being fully functional.

It is work to read a book.  It is hard work to be honest about circumstances, and take actual, tangible steps to improve, correct, change…   You’ve got your work cut out for you.  And one place to start is to read this book – as a team!

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You can purchase my synopsis of this book, with handout + audio, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

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