The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Cover

The “Book” during unboxing!

Today we continue our re-read of  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing). Remember that this is a business novel that highlights the dysfunctions of teams that reduce their effectiveness. If you do not have a copy of the book, please buy a copy from the link above and read along. We seem to be moving from cliffhanger to cliffhanger.  Today we resolve the first Martin crisis, and then end by exposing the second.

Drawing the Line

Even after the lunch meeting between Kathryn and Jeff, the issue of Martin attending the offsite was not resolved.  Remember Martin had approached Jeff to enlist his support and when Jeff could not change Kathryn’s mind, Jeff phoned the Chairman of the Board.  The call set up a confrontation between Kathryn and the Chairman. Kathryn explained that she had observed the other executives for two weeks and what she was doing was not random.  Kathryn had an explicit plan in mind and he was hurting the company by intervening. Which backed him off to an extent.  Kathryn asked if he was prepared for the consequences letting her do things the right way because, in the end, not everyone would be happy with the outcome but the impacts on the people and the organization would be known quickly.

Change often includes painful aspects, and while it easy to understand that intellectually it tends to be more difficult to accept the pain once it begins.  In the past, the Board and the Chairman actively helicoptered into DecsionTech to make decisions and provide guidance, which made it easy for the executives to avoid acting as a cohesive team.  This type of management often generates a parent-child relationship that makes distributed decision-making impossible.


Kathryn held the two-day offsite in Napa, which was close enough to avoid spending an inordinate amount of time traveling, but far enough away that it felt like they were really out of the office.  I have often held important meetings in a hotel conference room to avoid the lure of side conversations and hallway conversations that divide focus.  The meeting was slated to start at 9 AM  and by 8:45 AM everyone other than Martin had arrived. Martin made a dramatic last minute entrance at 8:59.

The Speech

Kathryn opens the meeting with a speech that lays out the problem the organization finds itself in.  The crux of the problem is that they are a dysfunctional team. Everyone needs to understand the problems of the organization and the team. Kathryn punctuates the speech by making sure that everyone knows they will have to understand the issues, at least everyone that will still be here when the change process is completed. Kathryn says that all this work is about making the company succeed. Solving the team problem is the most important step, and if it cannot be solved, nothing else will be possible.

During the speech, Kathryn began the process of exposing a model of the five reasons why teams are dysfunctional. The model is visualized as a pyramid with five parts stacked on each other. The base of the pyramid is the absence of trust. Trust is the foundation of real teamwork. Without trust, teams can’t share and discuss mistakes without fear of reprisals.

Pushing back

Mikey asked why Kathryn didn’t think that they trusted each? Kathryn pointed out that her option was based on comments from each of the executives, the board of directors and other staff members in the firm.  She also noted her own observations, including the lack of debate during staff meetings and other interactions among the executive team. The lack of debate is an obvious sign of distrust. The discussion starts to open the team up until Martin opens his laptop and begins to type furiously.  This is a clear sign that Martin has checked out, which brings us to the point where Martin’s behavior needs to be addressed (again).

Three quick take-ups:

  1. Helicopter management damages a team’s ability to coalesce.
  2. Trust is the base that all teams need to begin to become highly effective.
  3. Checking out of meetings with your boss can be career limiting.

Previous Installments in the re-read of  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni:

Week 1 – Introduction through Observations

Week 2 – The Staff through the End Run