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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

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In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni once again offers a leadership fable that is as enthralling and instructive as his first two best-selling books, The Five Temptations of a CEO and The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive. This time, he turns his keen intellect and storytelling power to the fascinating, complex world of teams.

Kathryn Petersen, Decision Tech's CEO, faces the ultimate leadership crisis: Uniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company. Will she succeed? Will she be fired? Will the company fail? Lencioni's utterly gripping tale serves as a timeless reminder that leadership requires as much courage as it does insight.

Throughout the story, Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams even the best ones-often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Just as with his other books, Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.

228 pages, Hardcover

First published April 11, 2002

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About the author

Patrick Lencioni

122 books1,984 followers
Patrick Lencioni is a New York Times best-selling author, speaker, consultant and founder and president of The Table Group, a firm dedicated to helping organizations become healthy. Lencioni’s ideas around leadership, teamwork and employee engagement have impacted organizations around the globe. His books have sold nearly three million copies worldwide.

When Lencioni is not writing, he consults to CEOs and their executive teams, helping them to become more cohesive within the context of their business strategy. The widespread appeal of Lencioni’s leadership models have yielded a diverse base of clients, including a mix of Fortune 500 companies, professional sports organizations, the military, non-profits, universities and churches. In addition, Lencioni speaks to thousands of leaders each year at world class organizations and national conferences. He was recently cited in the Wall Street Journal as one of the most sought-after business speakers in the nation.

Prior to founding his firm, he worked as a corporate executive for Sybase, Oracle and Bain & Company. He also served on the National Board of Directors for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,892 reviews
Profile Image for Neil.
14 reviews31 followers
December 4, 2008
I've been in corporate America for just under 4 years now. In my time, I've never really bought into the majority of management strategies I've seen because well, they blatantly do not work; and if they do, its at an absurd cost of employee retention, dissatisfaction and needless overwork.

Passive aggressiveness, no accountability, scared of conflict... I see it too often, and I'm constantly frustrated by it. And just when I thought I was alone, I read this book and was completely blown away. Everything I've felt, is here, written down in this book. Its quite extraordinary. I feel a bit like Jerry Mcguire did after writing his 'Mission Statement.' I want to buy copies of this book and put it in the mailboxes of management across corporate America. Unfortunately, one thing I've learned in life is you can't force people to change, they have to be willing and accepting to move forward on there own... or be forced by a higher hand. I can't force others who don't see it themselves, and as the low man on the totem pole, its a hard to play the upper hand. But dammit, at least I'll go down swinging, knowing I'm not alone.
Profile Image for Daniel Silvert.
Author 5 books22 followers
July 13, 2011
Five Dysfunctions of a Team
As a consultant who has worked with hundreds of teams in organizations large and small, I can attest that model outlined in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is both accurate in it’s root diagnosis of team dysfunctionalism, and is as pervasive as human nature itself. As with all of Lencioni’s books, he opens with a fable and concludes with the model that is the basis for the story’s solution. In the fable, a new CEO is confronted with a dysfunctional executive team and pressure from the board to execute a quick turn around. As she feels out how the current culture impacts collaboration, idea generation, and execution, the CEO gradually works through each stage of the Five Dysfunctions model to re-position the company for success.
The model in pyramid form:

Lack of trust: In this bottom stage, team members are hesitant to open up about their fears or insecurities about a project.

Fear of Conflict: Fearing retribution or political consequences, team members avoid rigorous debate over the issues and decisions that matter most. This can be reinforced by local legends: “The last time somebody challenged the boss’s idea, he wasn’t around for long afterwards.” Healthy, constructive conflict – or candor – is key to surfacing the best ideas. Fear of conflict snuffs out the creative process.

Lack of Commitment: Lack of vigorous debate does not prevent decisions from being made. Low team involvement in how decisions are shaped and carried out leads to weak buy- in.

Avoidance of Accountability: When commitment is low, excuses are readily available when results are not achieved. “We all knew this was un-realistic to begin with, now you’re going to hold us accountable?”

Inattention to Results: At this pinnacle stage, team members are investing valuable time and energy in the politics of self-protection. Obsessive email trails are stored for easy retrieval, stories are honed that explain where the break down occurred and by whom. It’s every ‘team’ member for him or herself. The collective concept is crushed.

In highly functional teams the pyramid, inverted, is just as relevant: High levels of trust leads to healthy, constructive candor in the service of unearthing the best ideas. Fully engaged team members feel high levels of commitment, because while their particular idea may not have won, they’re perspective was heard and respected. This feeds a focus on individual and collective accountability to achieve the goals agreed upon, which requires near total focus upon delivering results.

Lencioni captures the human essence of teamwork and connects the dots from trust to profit. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jacob.
417 reviews5 followers
July 7, 2017
Bear with me. I am highly skeptical of models as methods versus tools (I will explain later) and of corporate literature. With that bias, this book would have been lucky to get three stars from me. Please keep that in mind.

What I mean by a model as a method versus a tool, is that when a model is presented to help people try and understand how something functions I have no problem with it. Meyers-Briggs personality test is a great example. Fun to take and compare with people and get an idea of where they come from. But if you are a borderline on any of the 4 pairs then depending on your mood you can easily have 2 even 4 different likely personality types. And there are 7 billion people in the world and only 16 types--they don't all fit in those 16 categories. When someone takes a model and tries to impose it on the world and say this is the way things are, then I balk.

Regarding corporate literature in general, I won't say that it is useless, because it certainly isn't, but it has only a fractional effect as compared to actually experiencing working in a good team or for a good leader. It can be helpful but pales beside a good leader pulling you aside to help you.

The "fable" itself? Actually not that bad for a teamwork book. The whole thing is stilted because it is wrapped around an agenda but on the good side it is short, easy to read, and decently written. And I honestly can't say the five points are wrong--I think they are all valid.

There are much worse teamwork or leadership books out there. If you have to read one, or are genuinely interested in this genre then pick it up. Otherwise I wouldn't use your valuable time. Two stars.
Profile Image for Marleigh.
Author 1 book19 followers
March 27, 2011
First line: "Only one person thought Kathryn was the right choice to become CEO of DecisionTech, Inc.

Summary: Lencioni identifies five problems with executive teams, which he presents through a story (fable) and then analyzes.

Spoilers! In as much as reference books can have spoilers.

The 5 dysfunctions are:
1. Absence of trust. Where trust is comfort with showing vulnerability and admitting mistakes to teammates.
2. Fear of conflict. Teams need to be able to have passionate debate and walk away with no collateral damage. Lencioni describes a “false harmony” that is a sign of this.
3. Lack of commitment. Phoning it in rather than buying into the project. The key here is while not everyone gets their way, they should all be heard and their opinions considered and valued.
4. Avoidance of accountability. Here, they’re talking about teammates being able to call each other on poor performance, rather than having all accountability done by the team leader.
5. Inattention to results. In particular, putting personal goals above team goals.

They seems like fine goals. I'm a little unclear how to achieve them, despite the suggestions in the back. I also feel like point 2 could easily be misconstrued. Permission to have passionate debate does not mean permission to be an asshole. Actually, I think Lencioni usually uses the term "argument," while I prefer "debate" because I think it frames the issue in a more civil way.

Anyway, it had some interesting thoughts, and it certainly was a quick read. The story was lousy for fiction, though great for a reference book, and it did illustrate the problems.
Profile Image for Amanda NEVER MANDY.
466 reviews99 followers
March 23, 2017
This is another one of my “have to” and not “want to” reads. I would never even consider reading one of these types of books for fun, they are not my style at all. The information they contain is usually common sense stuff that people are aware of but unwilling or unable to incorporate into their day-to-day work lives. Most jobs are group based versus individual and even if you are in the mindset to make whatever changes that books like this deem necessary, it doesn’t mean everyone else you work with is.

Thankfully the author makes dry material into something tolerable by sharing his message in a story format and doesn’t bog the book down with graphs, sample work sheets and quizzes. It’s pretty basic and to the point with identifying problems and offering solutions. The length was acceptable as well as the writing style so I would place it a little higher on my Dull Jane shelf. I suppose if I had to recommend one of these things I would this one over quite a few others, especially if you wanted to know why your team sucked and how you could improve it.
Profile Image for JJ Khodadadi.
401 reviews95 followers
August 29, 2022
کتاب خوبی بود ولی نمیدونم چرا همش به این فکر می افتادم که تقریبا هیچکدوم از این نکات رو نمیشه توی سازمان های دولتی اجرایی کرد!! :))
5 reviews1 follower
February 27, 2013
I'm relatively new to the corporate world and observe heavy reliance on inane hierarchical-pyramid models and very linear "cycles" designed to describe organizations, relationships, goals, processes, progress and, ultimately, success. 'Five Dysfunctions' is a great example. While I'd love to rip into this book's awkward narrative structure, cartoonish characters, and childish melodrama, I'm certain many already have. If this book is to be considered a fable, it is only for its oversimplification and pretensions to wisdom. Life is a messy, confusing thing. 'Five Dysfunctions' is no better than a toy compass on your journey through it. One redemptive, practical use for this book might be reading it with everyone in your dysfunctional group to provide a framework vocabulary to discuss real issues. (Also, if anyone has a passionate hatred for its structure and content, promote them.)
March 19, 2008
Was chosen for a work thing, then we all realized that it didn't apply to our group, because we actually aren't dysfunctional at all, so we scrapped our plan to discuss it and went skiing instead!
That being said, I did learn some very valuable lessons...ok, I didn't...but I did read it, at least. For the good of the team.
Profile Image for jack.
112 reviews8 followers
January 25, 2009
forced to read this one for work. did some awful group work with it also. really not that helpful in a bullshit retail situation.
Profile Image for Nikki.
157 reviews7 followers
December 23, 2011
This is a one of the best business novels out there. I love the idea of introducing concepts through a storyline of a fictional organization. The only thing better would be if it were based on actual events that was told in story form.

Kathryn is a CEO who takes over a company struggling with its market share and profit. She has the courage to attack the difficult issues rarely losing her composure and delivers criticism in a way that it mostly encourages discussion and positive conflict. I cannot say I have come across any managers in corporate America who are effective as Kathryn. However, I am convinced she must exist amongst us in the real world. On the other hand I find the dysfunctions described in this short novel to be on point and rampant it manufacturing facilities and offices across the country. As difficult as it is to admit, I saw myself a couple of times in some of the characters. I still think it would be a tall order to effectively change the dynamics of work teams across this great country. We are a culture based on competition and individual success and it will be quite challenging to change that direction. Challenging but not impossible.

Profile Image for محمد الملا.
129 reviews41 followers
February 26, 2017
Simply, this book is "Must read books" list, I liked the story way to write the book, and the simple make Sense model of the five dysfunctions of teams

I already recommended this books to my friends, it's must read for every one

I will recommend that the reader should be ware of "Tuckman's stages of group development" which will put this book in the right context
Profile Image for C.
1,109 reviews1,043 followers
September 10, 2021
This identifies the causes of dysfunction in a team, and tells how to avoid them. It's astute, applicable guidance on improving a team's performance by improving behavior. The first part is a fable, and the second part is an explanation of the concepts.

It starts by saying that teamwork, more than products, tech, etc., make a company successful. Teamwork disintegrates if even one of the 5 dysfunctions is present. Teams succeed because they're exceedingly human. By acknowledging imperfections, they overcome natural tendencies toward dysfunctions.

I've heard this book mentioned several times over the years. I decided to finally read it after it was referenced in Traction.

5 Dysfunctions
Dysfunction 1: Absence of Trust
A team can't achieve results unless the members trust each other. Trust requires being vulnerable with each other (here, trust doesn't refer to being able to predict what a teammate will do, as in, "I trust Tom will do this."). Team members who aren't genuinely open about mistakes and weaknesses makes it impossible to build a foundation for trust. Healthy debate is a sign of trust.

Dysfunction 2: Fear of Conflict
Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments. Open, constructive, ideological conflict is critical. What makes meetings boring is that they don't have conflict (movies are interesting because they have conflict, and so are meetings).

Dysfunction 3: Lack of Commitment
Without having aired opinions in debate, team members rarely buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement in meetings. People must weigh in before they can buy in, but it's OK to disagree and still commit.

Dysfunction 4: Avoidance of Accountability
Without committing to clear plan of action, even most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on behaviors and actions that are counterproductive to good of team. People need to have bought into collective goals to hold each other accountable. When holding people accountable, assume they have the team's best interests in mind and are trying to be helpful, but still push them.

Dysfunction 5: Inattention to Results
Occurs when team members put individual needs (ego, career development, recognition) or divisions above collective goals of team. Must have clear, specific, actionable goals, and track fairly frequently (e.g., monthly). Everyone is responsible for meeting collective goals.

Viewed positively (opposites of dysfunctions)
1. Trust.
2. Engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
3. Commit to decisions and plans of actions.
4. Hold one another accountable for delivering against plans.
5. Focus on achievement of collective results.

How to avoid dysfunctions
Dysfunction 1: Build trust by sharing personality profiles (Myers Briggs), 360 degree feedback.

Dysfunction 2: Acknowledge conflict can be productive. Remind each other when conflict arises. Personality profiles tell how people handle conflict.

Dysfunction 3: Set deadlines for decisions. Use contingency and worst case analysis to overcome fear of wrong decision.

Dysfunction 4: Publish goals and standards. Have regular progress reviews and feedback. Have rewards at team level, not individual.

Dysfunction 5: Make results clear and public, and reward only those behaviors and actions that contribute to those results. Tie rewards, especially compensation, to team results.
147 reviews30 followers
November 10, 2020
كتاب مهم لكل من يريد الوصول لفائدة أكبر في العمل الجماعي في ظل فريق مكون من طبقات وثقافات مختلفة حيث يعرض أكثر المشاكل وأهمها التي قد تواجه الفريق وقد تنشب بين أفراده ويقدم حلول فعالة لكل منها
Profile Image for Jamie.
374 reviews5 followers
February 20, 2012
I'm so sad that this is the first book I've finished in 2012. It was chosen for a book study at school. It's an easy read, and has some very good points and good information for team building. But, books like this are just annoying to me. I'm not a fan of fables. It feels condescending. They just aren't my thing.

Kathryn takes over as CEO of a software company and works to rebuild the leadership team of vice-presidents. She ruffles feathers, but ultimately prevails in building a cohesive, goal-oriented team by focusing the team on the five main dysfunctions that are keeping the company from realizing its potential.

But I think the most annoying detail is that the company is located in the Silicon Valley, specifically Half Moon Bay. Ummm...Half Moon Bay is a tiny coastal farming community and is south of the Bay area, closer to Santa Cruz. Bad author! LOL
Profile Image for Tania Lukyniuk.
260 reviews87 followers
January 26, 2015
Skeptical business book reader, I had zero expectations from this book. I only took it because it was less than 150 pages and was recommended by two people whose opinion I respected.

I am happy to admit that I was wrong. The book is written as a story of new leader coming to an IT company with poorly acting management team. The way she managed her new team members - very different, often contradicting and conflicting with each other or working in their silos - is great learning process on effective team building.

Grandly recommended.
61 reviews
November 11, 2012
This book consists of two parts. First, from pages 3 to 184, is a "Fable". Really it's just a badly written implausible story about a dysfunctional high tech start-up. The author has chosen to call it a Fable to cover up it's deficiencies. Second, from pages 185 to 220, is a "Model". Really it's just a short article about a pyramid whose levels don't seem to have a pyramidal relationship. This pyramid is the "model", and is explained with such pap as "[the absence of trust] stems from [the team members] unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group." Well now you know whether this book is for you -- if you can agree to that kind of reasoning, you will like the Fable and the Model in the book. If not, then not.
Profile Image for Oceana GottaReadEmAll.
671 reviews960 followers
March 17, 2022
Very fun way of explaining his theory of the aspects of a dysfunctional team and how to work on correcting them. Major teamwork piece. Very informative and useful to bring into my new job!
Profile Image for Al.
417 reviews3 followers
February 2, 2022
Patrick Lencioni is one of the best selling business authors and this is one of his most famous books. I have read him before. I also noticed he was probably the most prolific author on the shelf the last time I perused used books at Half Price.

He calls his style “business fables” which is a story that is about 150 pages long and then 70 or so pages of explanation

The positive is that even if Lencioni is no Raymond Chandler, it hooks the reader better than a text book would. The draw back is the plot is fictional so some readers may be apt to think the characters aren’t behaving in a realistic way

I had no major qualms with this book. The fictional story kept my interest. The topic itself is very important (as the many sales attest).

My biggest gripe is probably that the Five dysfunctions are the least memorable thing about the book. There’s good content and generally the point of a book like this is for a book group discussion but as it stands, I’m not sure I could name the five (though I certainly got the concepts of the book).

The problem of business books is that economic realities tend to get in the way of fictional ideas. Though here, the ideas are generally strong enough to apply to most any company of any size.

I think even pre-pandemic, budgets for team activities were the first thing to cut. It is an interesting point to ponder. It seems like the most superfluous of expenses and yet as Lencioni illustrates, without a team dynamic, how far is a company able to go.

For business concepts, it’s hard to beat the hook of this book, too and it’s solid advice. Reading the book itself won’t solve everything but it might help you recognize some things, and suggest a start that will get you on the right path.
Profile Image for Gina.
134 reviews11 followers
January 29, 2023
A colleague is leaving for a team lead position in another company. Looking for a gift, I came across this book, which is a top rated one in leadership category. I am not the bigest fan of self-help et co books, mostly because they tend to state the obvious, with a pedant tone. As the book arrived super quickly by post, said to give it a try as is quite short (yes, I am a daredevil who just finished the book meant to be a present haha).

I was a bit questioning its effectiveness, as it started like a story. However, even though most characters seem predictable and the dialogues are not complex at all (clearly far from being a Dostoievski), the message came across better for me. The model explained seems simple and it sticked to my mind due to the exciting way it is presented, by involving some drama and a plot. Many books of this genre start with some theory and then add examples, but I think the author had a better approach. It is well known that a short story or a novel taps very well on human emotions, empathy and psychology in general.
Profile Image for Robert Chapman.
501 reviews47 followers
September 14, 2012
I read this book 10 years ago when it was first released. Back then I was at a point in my career where the lessons of this book were not really applicable to my circumstances. I decided to give it another read as I remembered it to be a good book and since its release it has also gained a reputation as one of the better books on the topics of Leadership and Organizational Development.

The book tells a story to illustrate the dysfunctions using the setting of an executive team in a fictitious company. This resonated with me as I am now part of an executive team of similar makeup. The five dysfunctions are not rocket science and the book does not propose them to be such. The real value of the book comes in walking through each dysfunction and understanding what the negative impacts of each are and on the flipside the benefits which curing each can bring.

No company or team is perfect; there will always be dysfunction to some level. This book offers a good yardstick against which a team can measure itself and set goals for improvement.
Profile Image for Sarina.
418 reviews117 followers
March 23, 2018
Certainly a guide most of us are in dire need of or everyone should at least read once. It's necessary for teams or groups not just in the corporate world, but I think in all areas, even in university or school level.
The translation by Farjana Mobin, and Onnorokom Prokashoni was just amazing.
It's like I have become a part of Katheryn's team myself.

Hats off to the translating team for bringing such an important book to the attention of the people of this country and hats off to the author for writing so clearly.
Profile Image for Sergey Morovshik.
59 reviews11 followers
March 8, 2017
Отличная книга, просто и понятно описан ситуация, инструменты, методы простейшей диагностики команды. Все описанное в книге отзывается мне на 100% и может я бы добавил бы ещё кое-что... В общем, я прочитав понял почему многие предприниматели и лидеры ставят эту книгу в топ-10 к обязательному прочтению менеджерами. Я тоже беру книгу в топ-10.
Profile Image for Grekz M.
43 reviews
August 6, 2019
I liked this book a lot. I was entertained during the entire read.

Trust your teammates. Don't run away from conflict. Commit. Make yourself and teammates accountable. Focus on team goals over individual goals.
Profile Image for Justas Butkus.
44 reviews3 followers
February 26, 2021
The techniques portion leaves a bit to be desired. Although it’s clear that the author tries to show the simplicity of the underlying ideas - the proverbial devil remains in the details.

The short story is just fascinating. Building on the mechanisms pioneered by Goldratt it builds up tension, makes situations feel relatable and leaves wanting for more of the same.
Profile Image for Hanne Rump.
Author 18 books21 followers
October 5, 2021
It is an easy read and it certainly have interesting point.

As for stating it is a fable it is a surprisingly poor piece of literature viewed from the fiction side - which it claim to be stating that it is a fable. It does however do its job in the sense of illustrating points. I am however in doubt as to if it really enables the reader to implement any of this in real life - it might inspire useful discussions and it could be argued that that's the purpose?
Profile Image for Ang.
1,746 reviews40 followers
September 13, 2016
I mean, for compulsive readability, five stars! I couldn't WAIT to see who got fired next!

Just kidding. Sort of. I really did get kind of sucked into the story here. But I'm left sort of...cold by the conclusions. I just feel like, well...this all sounds nice, but there's no here here. There's no evidence or practical suggestions, ultimately. There's absolutely NO indication on how to implement this plan for a team, just vague suggestions on what might help.

At least it was short?
Profile Image for Sarah.
735 reviews25 followers
November 15, 2014
Bleh, really? What did I learn from this "fable"? I'm not precisely sure why I'm saying this...but I feel like this is the kind of book that would be enjoyed by someone who enjoyed The Alchemist. Like, for people who seem to be adults but who enjoy soft, comfortable things that allow them to just nod along instead of actually thinking.
Profile Image for Mona_97_.
73 reviews13 followers
July 4, 2017
من الجدير ان يتسأل المرء الذي يعيش في مجتمع يعتمد بدرجة اولى على العمل الجماعي ماسبب فشلنا على رغم المهارات و الطاقة الهائلة التي يحظى بها الفريق! يسعى الكاتب لتوضيح خمس عوامل تؤدي لخلل العمل الجماعي من ثم يطرح بعض الحلول الفعالة.. كتاب مفيد جدًا لمن يعمل في فرق سواء علميًّا او عمليًا او حياتيًا.
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