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November 6, 2008

New Program Addresses

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Once riding high on the Wall Street Journal’s Best Seller List is a book that demonstrates to corporate America exactly where their workgroup may be dysfunctional. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni, uses an allegorical tale to show just how a team, beginning with an absence of trust, is destined to lose itself in a labyrinth of inefficacy and even more dysfunction.

In his latest leadership novel, Lencioni describes five dysfunctions that teams often face through the fictional story of a Silicon Valley company struggling to survive. In the book, Kathryn Petersen is hired as the new CEO and immediately notices that the executive team is dysfunctional, often working against each other instead of as a team. During several staff retreats, Petersen works on creating a strong executive team by identifying the team's strengths and weaknesses, and which members of the team contribute to the team's dysfunction. With a series of exercises and pointed discussions led by Petersen, Lencioni shows how the group tackles each of the five team dysfunctions.

First, let’s look at the “Five Dysfunctions”. The First is an Absence of Trust. Lencioni writes: "Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers' intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another." By doing that, they can openly make suggestions for improving one another's actions or behaviors

The second is a Fear of Conflict. "All great relationships require productive conflict to grow," writes Lencioni, although many times conflict isn't embraced in situations like work. The quicker a team can work through its problems, the quicker resolutions can be found. However, if problems aren't discussed, making decisions to move forward becomes almost impossible.”

The third dysfunction, a Lack of Commitment “"It's fine to debate issues and have many disagreements-in fact, it's better," he says. "People can change their minds or see different points of view when points are debated. But once a team arrives at a decision, all members have to stick to it without hedging."

Avoidance of Accountability is the fourth dysfunction. Team members must keep each other accountable on all actions that may hurt the group, such as producing mediocre work or missing deadlines. Regardless of how strong a team is, it is still difficult for members to openly criticize one another, even if their actions are hurting the team. So, says Lencioni, they tend to avoid accountability.

That leads to the fifth, Inattention to Results. If the championship basketball team just wanted to play basketball and didn't care about winning any games, then it would be suffering from the final dysfunction, "inattention to results." Once goals are set, the individuals of a team need to work toward their collective goals

Lencioni contrasts cohesive and healthy teams because they tend to: 1) trust one another 2) engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas 3) commit to decisions and plans of action 4) hold one another accountable for delivering and, 5) focus on the achievement of collective results.

The TeamBuilding Co. has developed a program that aligns with the principles of the book well. In an outdoor and experiential format, teams take on various challenges that are skewed towards the material in the book and underscore its focus.

“These trainings don’t require pens, pencils, workbooks or boring lectures”, says Jeff Blum, Senior Facilitator. “We get people moving, doing something a little bit physical and ultimately having some fun along the way. We have found that by working hard to involve every member of our client’s team, true learning can take place and there can be realizations and ‘ah-ha’s’ at a core level.”.

“You know,” Blum says, “most great athletes and sports teams are practicing their sport all the time, regardless of how much talent they have. Yet most corporate teams rarely, if ever, practice just being a team. They get so caught up in their tasks that they often times only imprint their dysfunctional behaviors. The norm becomes something that is counterproductive.”

For more information about team building programs offered by The TeamBuilding please call Jeff Blum at (619) 261-7663 or