Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

In this week’s re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team  by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing), we conclude Part Three with the sections titled the Last Stand, Flack, Heavy Lifting, and Rally. I suspect we have 3 or 4 weeks left before moving to the next book, BUT we still have a number of ideas to extract from this book.

If you are new to the re-read series buy a copy and  go back to week one and read along!

I have not heard any nay sayers on the idea of re-reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset next, however just be to fair I am going to include a poll at the end to decide between Mindset, Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) and Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi).  I would like your opinion!

Last Stand

Instead of coming to terms with the situation, Mikey refused to resign and threatens a lawsuit if fired. Kathryn’s restated her position was that she didn’t have to quit, but unless she was willing to change (something she probably wasn’t interested in doing) she would have to leave. In chess this is classically known as a fork. The attacker presents his/her opponent with two possible outcomes (let’s say the loss of a queen or a castle) and the opponent gets to decide which position they wish to forfeit. For Kathryn, both options were an acceptable outcome. Note: in real life, if you are using this tactic it is important to ensure that there is not a third option or the outcome will less controlled. In this case, Mikey acquiesces and indicates she will resign if DecisionTech meets her set of demands. Kathryn said she would try to meet those demands even though they were within her purview, keeping Mikey off balance and holding on to the balance of power.Saying yes immediately in this type of negotiations probably isn’t a good idea. Even if you can say yes immediately don’t, let things sink in and then you can say yes. The Last Stand is an excellent primer on the use of power in negotiations.

The Mikey scenario in the book reinforces the idea that it is critical to be socially aware. Every individual will have an impact on a team, for good or for bad.  Regardless of whether someone is individually superlative, if they have to be part of a team it is critical that they support the team’s cultural and behavioral norms.


In this section Kathryn informs the team that Mikey is gone, and observes that even though Mikey had been a cancer on the team that her resignation is a downer.

Having been part of organizations that have had to shed personnel because they did not fit the team, I can validate Lencioni’s statement that generally no one enjoys the immediate aftermath of someone being fired or being pushed to resign. In the long run, it is often getting rid of someone that is bad for the team is better for the team, for the organization and sometimes even for the individual.

Heavy lifting

While the off-site, the proverbial show had to go on. The group wrestled with the loss of Mikey. Teams often mourn because no one understands how they will be impacted. This again, from my experience, is fairly common.  Kathryn used a story from early in her career to drive home the point that a bad fit can destroy a team and kill careers.  In the story Katheryn promoted a Mikey like person only to have the team fail to deliver, many people quit and Kathryn was fired.  The story made sure everyone in the room knew the consequences of not acting.  More importantly Kathryn used the story as a tool to tell everyone that she had removed the illness in the team to save the whole team.  Kathryn directly states she does not want to lose anyone else, sending a soothing message to those remaining.


Section three of the book concludes with the Rally.  When Mikey’s departure was announced to the organization there is more concern among the staff than anticipated.  Most of the angst is over tactical issues. The angst that the organization feels is more than offset by less bad behavior between teams and between the members of the “Staff” (remember that is what the executive team was once called when they focused only on day-to-day activities). Overall everyone in the in the organization recognized more unity of purpose.  The real business issues were being sorted out at the top of the organization rather than to be left to wrestle with by people without the power to make decisions.

Three key takeaways:

  1.      You are responsible for the atmosphere that you create.
  2.      Leaders and teams bear the consequence of not dealing with bad attitudes.
  3.      When someone leaves a team everyone will mourn to some extent.

Poll for the next book!

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

Week 8 – On-site through Fireworks

Week 9 – Leaks through Plowing On

Week 10 – Accountability through The Talk