The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

17 Oct 2018    

When a former colleague suggested The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, I browsed to a couple of Internet reviews. These convinced me the book might be very interesting. Since I commute quite a lot these days, I was happy to see an audiobook existed.

Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think.

After only fifteen minutes, the leadership fable grabbed my attention and never let go.


  1. Absence of Trust

    The absence of trust is very time and energy consuming, as team members don’t overcome the need for invulnerability: team members are afraid to make mistakes and are reluctant to ask for help from each other. This implies teams are not working together on solving issues.

  2. Fear of Conflict

    Generally conflict is seen as “a bad thing”, something to avoid. But when you only achieve harmony, when people don’t speak up, this will immediately lead to the next dysfunction: lack of commitment. Embrace conflict, because it demonstrates that people are passionate about what they’re doing, which will facilitate achieving results. This is something that I have actively been advocating at conferences, with customers and in my architecture katas.

    Most people just want to be heard, it’s not about winning the debate and final decision.

  3. Lack of Commitment

    As mentioned in the previous dysfunction, when people are not part of the plan, chances are, they will lack commitment. Consensus is not always a good thing, because when you are trying to please everyone, you often end up displeasing everyone. This manifests itself, when people keep coming back to the same issues, when those have been discussed and even resolved before.

    A wrong decision is better than no decision.

  4. Avoidance of Accountability

    When people don’t commit to a solution, they also will not hold each other accountable. In a team, the responsibility to hold one another accountable is shared by all team members. It’s not only the team leader, who must hold other team members accountable.

  5. Inattention to Results

    A leader needs to be obsessed by creating the best team possible and by the collective results of that team. This can be facilitated by defining measurable results, for the entire team. When team members focus on individual success, the team suffers. Results of an individual department don’t automatically lead to results for the entire team. And if the entire team is not successful, the results of an individual department don’t matter.


To figure out how your team is doing, these five questions will help in assessing your team:

  • Do your team members openly disclose their opinions?
  • Are your team meetings compelling and productive?
  • Does your team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
  • Do your team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
  • Do your team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?

In summary

The book simplifies a lot, yet provides eye-opening insights if you work as part of a (leadership) team. It is narrated in under four hours and really merits your attention! Real teamwork is difficult, however it can provide amazing results.