Following on from last week’s post, this week’s post is about the latest book I read, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni.
I’m not too sure if it was this book, but it states the strength of a good team far exceeds the potential of a single individual. However, getting a good team right is extremely hard. It’s really easy for everyone to be in an illusion that they’re in a good team, but this book really makes you examine that belief.
The book itself has a pretty interesting format. It’s a fictional story about Silicon Valley’s latest “hot” startup that raises lots of money, has the best talent and receives lots of media attention. There’s only one problem: it’s significantly behind all its competitors who don’t have any of the competitive advantages they have. Why is that? A lack of a coherent team.
I’ve seen and been on both sides of this coin. In my time spent being the smaller organisation, it’s baffling how the larger organisation is really, really slow to recognise, identify and adapt to their user’s needs. There’s a conception that the first thing you should do once you get boat loads of money is to “rapidly expand”. Excessive or uncontrolled growth isn’t always good, sometimes it’s the literal definition of cancer. Coherence, alignment and unity is extremely key. It’s hard to justify a circumstance where it’s worth making a trade off for those things.
Back to the book. We have a struggling organisation with a supposedly great CEO. Until, one day he steps down voluntarily and moves to a C-level role. To take his place, Kathryn, a 40–50 year old women with no experience running a high tech organisation (only traditional organisations) is put in his place. Everyone in the organisation is skeptical of her execution to pull the company together. During her first two weeks, she does nothing but observe employees and the interactions between other executives in meetings. After this she then takes them to these 2-day off-site activities where she breaks down and informs them of their dysfunctions of team:
- Lack of trust: before anything, team members need to feel psychologically safe to share and express their opinions with each other. It ensures that any feedback is taken constructively and not personally. Without this trust, the foundations for dysfunctions are laid out.
- Fear of conflict: building from a lack of trust, team members who don’t trust each other will be afraid to speak up and share their opinions due to the consequence of creating conflict.
- Lack of commitment: if a team member hasn’t been able to share their controversial/unique point of view then they won’t be committed to achieving the goals since they had no say in it.
- Avoidance of accountability: since they had no say, any failure on execution isn’t taken up with personal responsibility and excuses are made up.
- Inattention to detail: the results don’t matter, it’s each person to themselves. This is the final nail in the coffin as the meaning of “team” is completely lost when you have a group of individuals acting as individuals, not as collective.
I’m sure we’ve all used or purchased products where the inattention to detail is evident. That lack of detail most likely came from a group of individuals acting as a dysfunctional team in that particular product organisation.
It’s quite easy to see how bad teams can hurt the bottom line of any company. From personal experience, dysfunctional organisations often have a “us” vs “them” culture, passing things over the fence and a lack of accepting responsibility for mistakes. One of the previous books I read was “Extreme Ownership” where they go into this concept of responsibility in detail. However, I’ll leave that for another time.
Apart from the core principles mentioned in this book, the layout and format is very captivating and intriguing as the author describes the various non-verbal signals people make to communicate things rather than the dialogue they might speak. Since literally everyone is part of some kind of team (family, friends, sports team, organisation), learning and being aware of these dysfunctions should be a high priority on anyone’s list of things to know.