In this week’s re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing), we continue with the third section of the book. This section begins the second off-site by wrestling with defining who their first team is. The concept of the first team can be summarized as who a team member owes their ultimate work loyalty. Any scenario that includes a hierarchy of teams faces this issue.
(Remember to buy a copy from the link above and read along.) We are well over halfway through this book and I will begin soliciting ideas for the next book soon.
Katheryn discovers that others in the organization seem to know bits and pieces of what was going on in the offsite meetings. Opinions are being formed based on incomplete knowledge. Opinions based on partial knowledge tend to be interpreted through the filter of individual and team boundaries. Misperceptions can lead confusion and infighting amongst teams.
Offsite Number Two
The second offsite began with Katheryn bring up the topic of what the executive team had told their subordinates about the first offsite meeting. The issue was not that they had communicated but rather how they had handled confidential conversations among the team and which team they owed their ultimate loyalty.
The question became who the executive team members are loyal to, their subordinates or the executive team. Several of the executive team were closer to their subordinates than they were to the management team. Members of a team that has different ultimate loyalties than the executive team (and by extension the organization) will but tend to put the needs of their other team ahead of the organization. This can lead to a type of local optimization in one team’s performance is optimized at the expense of optimizing the performance of the organization. The discussion of shifting loyalties to the executive team caused consternation. Team members equated shifting loyalties to bad management and abandoning carefully crafted relationships that had been built and nurtured over time.
Kathryn moved the team on by asking how they were doing. What she got was a tactical discussion of the impact of JR quitting and Nick taking over the sales function. What she really wanted was the team’s perception of how they were doing as a team. The answer was that the team still had not learned to discuss the hard problems such resource allocation
Carlos suggested that the organization was engineering heavy. Which caused Martin to go into defense mode, refusing to accept or discuss the possibility. Kathryn defused the negative conflict by facilitating it to more productive conflict that broke down walls between the individuals. By ensuring that everyone developed an understanding that they all wanted the best for the company. In the end, Martin went to the whiteboard and educated the team on what everyone in engineering was doing. Martin’s executive team peers were surprised by everything going on within engineering. The rest of the team engaged and going to the whiteboard to facilitate and add their input to the discussion of resources. The conversation ended with a decision to make changes so that some engineers moved into a sales support role because that was what was best for the organization and not just for Martin and the engineering group. The section and conversation ended with a lunch break and Katheryn’s announcement that they would talk about dealing with interpersonal discomfort and holding each other accountable next.
Three quick takeaways:
- Partial information leads to misinterpretations.
- Executives need to be ultimately loyal to the executive team rather than their siloed organizations.
- Productive conflict requires facilitation to learn.
Previous Installments in the re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni: