The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Cover

The “Book” during unboxing!

I am back from the Øredev  in Malmo, Sweden. It was a wonderful conference. Check out my short review.

In this week’s re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team  by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing), the team returns to the office and quickly begins the transformation process.

(Remember to buy a copy from the link above and read along.)

Part Three – Heavy Lifting


Kathryn and the team return to the day-to-day grind of the office. Significant progress building teams can be made when the day-to-day pressure of the office are removed, but Kathryn immediately observes that the progress the team has made offsite deteriorates.  I have observed that much of the progress made when away from the office is transitory without reinforcement. Behavior tends to revert when confronted by the same triggers. All progress goes out the window when Nick calls a meeting to propose acquiring another firm and includes only a subset of the team. When called on not including Mikey, Nick slams her competence. Despite a rocky start, the team holds a fairly good discussion of the plusses and minuses until Nick blurts out that while Kathryn might be great at teamwork, she doesn’t know anything about the business and isn’t qualified to participate in the discussion. Kathryn doesn’t let the slight slide and gives Nick the choice of having it out right there in public or behind closed doors.

Nick is frustrated that he was underutilized. He feels that he could be leading the organization.  The acquisition is a reflection of his frustration.  He infers that perhaps he should quit.  Kathryn points out that he is underutilized because he is only interested advancing his own career rather than advancing the goals of the organization. Earlier in my career as a quality manager, I reported to the general manager of the organization. One of my co-workers was a Nick.  All that was important to him was the next rung on the ladder.  He never did anything to did not directly benefit this goal. He was not much of team player and often caused conflict amongst the team. Everyone was happy when he was promoted to another site (I heard he flamed out). Kathryn leaves Nick to sort things out in advance of her first staff meeting late in the day.


The staff meeting starts at two with everyone present except Nick and JR. Nick arrives at the last second and interrupts Kathryn as she begins, Nick delivers an apology for his outburst during the meeting earlier in the day. He publicly admitted to the team (showing trust) that he feels underutilized and that his underutilization will reflect poorly on his career.  Even though he is frustrated, he doesn’t want to leave yet and needs everyone’s help to find something he could hang his hat on. Lencioni uses the reversal in his behavior to provide an example of how team members should be able to safely ask for help. After bares his soul, Kathryn drops the bombshell that JR had quit the night before. With JR gone someone needs to step up and take the sales role.  Carlos volunteers (Carlos tries to please as we have seen before). In the end, Nick decides  to take the sales (he is underutilized) even thought he had come to DecsionTech he felt that sales pigeonholed him even though he was “damn good at it.” Carlos was relieved not to have been called to deliver on his suggestion. Remember to be careful what you ask for…you just might get it and in Carlos’s case, he was not underutilized.

In the end, Nick’s underutilization poisoned his attitude in the same way over-utilization can poison attitudes. Team members need to be able to trust each other enough to ask and provide help.  

Three quick takeaways:

  •         Never tell your boss they are unqualified unless you are willing to suffer the consequences.
  •         Not everyone can fit into every team (team members are not easily replaceable parts).
  •         Trust can be learned in theory at off-site meetings, but trust is really learned on-site.

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

Week 3 – Drawing the Line though Pushing Back

Week 4 – Entering Danger though Rebound

Week 5 – Awareness through Goals

Week 6 – Deep Tissue through Exhibition

Week 7 – Film Noir through Application