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  • Writer's pictureVishwatosh Tripathi

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni – A practitioner’s view.

My first introduction to Patrick Lencioni was through his book “The Advantage”. Its an amazing book that tells how to build an organization based on trust. The Advantage is a based on another book by Patrick Lencioni- “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. I was so influenced by The Advantage, that I also decided to read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

I got hold of this book and finished reading it in just few days. Its a management novel. A story that’s not unique as we all experience all those emotions (mentioned in the book) in our daily work life. What is unique though is, how we should handle such emotions and make an effective team.

Absence of Trust

Trust is a trait, a tenet that we look in anyone and everyone we interact with. However very few think that others also look for the same in us. Most issues in any relationship or organization (yes organizations are made of relationships) arise because of absence or lack of trust. A team with high trust factor is more likely to be successful than a team that lacks it. An organization (or a nation) that trusts its leadership will withstand hardships and work together to overcome obstacles. What’s new in this? We all know this, huh! Of course there is nothing new in this. However new thing is to know how to build and sustain trust. So, how do we do it? Its not easy and it takes time. Best way to develop trust though is starting from the top. The top most person in the organization has to truly and sincerely be bought to the importance of trust. He/she should display trust in his immediate team. This is done by opening up with certain drawbacks and weaknesses that may hold him/her back. This has contagious effect on the immediate team and the disease just flows down! Such a leadership can quickly achieve what is called as Vulnerable Trust!

Fear of Conflict

Conflict is a dreaded word in an organizational set up. Paradoxically, the very act of avoiding it actually makes it grow exponentially. Most people don’t ask questions or seek clarifications lest it may create conflict. When this happens people tend to superficially agree on things without really buying into those. This causes immense damage as it reduces ownership and accountability of the decisions made and people tend to drop the ball mid-way. Its not difficult to understand that such fear of conflict directly stems from Absence of Trust. An organization that has trust as its foundation will have people questioning decisions, break status quo and will own & be accountable for their actions. It is critical to remove fear of conflict especially in an inter-departmental situation. Because if two department leads will seek clarity by asking questions and breaking status quo it will directly result in direction and clarity in work of their respective subordinates. This will actually eliminate the next dysfunction.

Lack of Commitment

Commitment is yet another sought after tenet like trust. In an organizational set up individuals and departments want commitment from each other to achieve individual/departmental KRAs! Lack of commitment will always exist where there will be fear of conflict. This is because individuals or department leaders will not seek clarity on their goals and will not try to align their respective KRAs with the organizational KRAs. Result? They don’t reach the finish line together! To achieve commitment we need to have clarity and accountability. We saw in previous paragraph that a healthy conflict ensures people have clarity on decisions and hence buy in to decisions taken even if they may not agree to it. This brings accountability. This bring commitment to larger cause and people work as One instead of working in silos.

Avoidance of Accountability

Accountability directly stems from commitment and clarity. If department leaders lack commitment and avoid accountability, their subordinates may end up working towards just departmental goals and will not be able to get interdepartmental support. A committed leadership will actually have integrated KRAs for their teams/departments. This will ensure team work and a team completely accountable for its actions.

Inattention to Results

Results are what we are bothered about in a business scenario. What matters most is the financial result at the organizational level. Teams/departments may lose focus of this larger result in comparison to their department KRAs, worst individual KRAs. This is a direct result of people not having commitment and accountability. A leader that develops trust, removes fear of conflict will eventually end up removing other dysfunctions around commitment, accountability and results. This will lead to a high performing organization.


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