The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

There are five interrelated issues that undermine the performance of a team, and they can be viewed from 2 angles:

The Negative Angle

This is popular because as managers we’re often looking for what’s wrong so we can fix it:

  1. Absence of trust. 
    If the members of the team do not trust each other, then they cannot be totally honest with each other.
    This is the hardest to fix as it’s often personality conflicts or deep-seated issues that cause this, but if you get this part right, the rest normally follows much more easily.
  2. Fear of conflict.
    Without trust, people will not have the healthy debates that are necessary to arrive at better thought through decisions.
    People who don’t trust each other will not openly say if they have made a mistake, or don’t know something, so you can’t get to the heart of any matter discussed. They are also less likely to proffer an idea if they might know another approach but are not 100% sure in case of looking silly.
  3. Lack of commitment.
    If the team has not aligned behind a decision, then the individual members who did not agree with the final decision will ultimately be less committed to that decision.
    This will lead to the bare minimum being done by that person, and a lot more micromanagement needed to get the desired result, which is a waste of good team minds and management effort.
  4. Avoidance of accountability.
    If an individual is not committed to the course of action, then they are less likely to feel accountable (or hold other people accountable).
    Another way of thinking of this is taking ownership. If they are not committed and don’t take ownership of a task, they’re much less likely to hold themselves and others accountable for successful delivery.
  5. Inattention to results.
    Consequently, they are less likely to care about the group results (and instead focus on achieving their own goals).

These are from the excellent book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

I have found these principles so useful that I have printed this summary and I have it on my wall at work, both to remind me, and to help explain to others where team breakdown problems are likely originating.

The Positive Angle

Sometimes it’s also good to look at these from a positive side, so as a manager you know what you’re aiming for in your teams. These are the pillars that underlie exceptional teamwork:

  1. Trust and vulnerability
    When team-mates trust each other, they are not afraid to be vulnerable in front of each other, and will admit mistakes or shortcomings, allowing their team-mates to help fill any gaps.
  2. Healthy debate
    One of the main pillars of teamwork is healthy debates, where each team-mate feels empowered to contribute, ideas can be shared, and plans formulated.
    Part of this is each team member being able to let go of any ego and talk about the topics from an objective viewpoint, which is why team trust is so necessary.
  3. Commitment to decisions
    The outcome of the spirited debates should be a decision on a plan forward, and since each team-mate felt empowered to contribute to the plan, they should then also fully commit to the agreed decision.
  4. Accountability
    With everyone fully committed to the plan, they should then be comfortable to be held accountable (and hold each other accountable) to the KPIs.
  5. Attention to results
    If the group has a shared feeling of success, they will all strive for the same results, and will pay attention to if those results are met.

I have also written about this topic on the SSW Rule: Do you know the 5 dysfunctions of a team? 

Figure: A nice info-graphic that covers this quite well

[This post was originally published at]