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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Posted by Jan Craft - Monday, February 11, 2013

Feb 11

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Table Group are quite extraordinary for a number of reasons. They have created business formats for team building based not on theoretical models but on a simple common sense approach, backed up with case studies from life experience. What this has produced is a straightforward learning approach that is accessible to all and does not require great sophistication to deliver success.

Written by Patrick Lencioni in 2002, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a business fable with fictional characters and a story-line based on Pat’s life experience working as a corporate executive at Sybase, Oracle and Bain & Co in the U.S. It is simple and engaging to read but for the corporate businessperson the setting and characters will be spine chillingly familiar. All of the dysfunctions of a team are there. For some it is ego, self interest, self promotion, fear of failure, frustration, anger, aggression and disillusionment. The way this fictional situation is resolved becomes the basis of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team model which is powerful primarily in its relative simplicity. This is explained in more detail at the end of the book.

What is inspirational about Pat’s company The Table Group is their incredible belief in their product and its power to be transformational. Having operated in the business world I can see the strength of its propositions for change. Let’s look at just one facet and explore how this one simple change in behaviour could potentially eliminate politics from a team.

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team model recommends creating team meeting norms, a set of behaviours to which a team must adhere. The purpose of these norms is to eliminate politics, yes you heard right, eliminate. How is this achieved? Just one rule states that there should be no out of meeting meetings. For some individuals their entire corporate patterns of behaviour revolve around lobbying and manipulating issues behind the scenes.  All business matters and topics are discussed only when the team meets together. It requires a strong leader to enforce this rule but once established the team itself will be self governing. No individual in the team should have an opportunity to express themselves other than to all of the team members.  The leader needs to make it clear...”you cannot meet with me, email me, phone me, walk into my office, stop me in the corridor or communicate anything except with all of the team at the table”. This also applies to the rest of the team.  It takes very few instances of a conspiratorial comment being rebuffed for this behaviour to change.

This is a very simple strategy but its power is undeniable. 

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