The Barnes & Noble Review
This informative book focuses on the problems and conflicts that often prevent teams from working together to achieve their stated goals. As he has done in works such as The Five Temptations of a CEO and The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Lencioni couches his insights in narrative form: This time, he focuses on a fictional high-tech Silicon Valley start-up that has much potential but is burden by executives whose egos seem to be constantly clashing. The board brings in a talented CEO, Kathryn Peterson, whose experience lies mainly in manufacturing. How she wins over her executive team, who are wary of her nontechnological background, is the crux of the book -- and we become flies on the wall in three very dramatic but realistic off-site meetings that Peterson conducts with her direct reports in order to deal with the company's chronic problems.
After this fable, Lencioni provides a practical discussion of the methods Peterson used. The five dysfunctions of the title -- lack of trust, fear of conflict, unwillingness to commit, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results -- are ones that many leaders will recognize, but few will know exactly how to fix. Although Peterson’s Yoda-like wisdom may seem unrealistic to some, the universality of the issues she confronts will ultimately win you over.
This work is easily devoured in one sitting, and you may find yourself doing just that. Clearly, Lencioni’s fable and the ensuing discussion are drawn from his experience as the president of a Bay Area management consulting firm, but even not knowing that, you’ll appreciate the wisdom of his teachings. If you’re a member of a leadership team, this will prove to be an invaluable book. (Holly McGuire)
Holly McGuire is a book editor and consultant based in Chicago, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.
A friend of mine, the founder of a company that grew to a billion dollars in annual revenue, best expressed the power of teamwork when he once told me, "If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time."
Whenever I repeat that adage to a group of leaders, they immediately nod their heads, but in a desperate sort of way. They seem to grasp the truth of it while simultaneously surrendering to the impossibility of actually making it happen.
And that is where the rarity of teamwork comes into play. For all the attention that it has received over the years from scholars, coaches, teachers, and the media, teamwork is as elusive as it has ever been within most organizations. The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.
But that is not to say that teamwork is doomed. Far from it. In fact, building a strong team is both possible and remarkably simple. But it is painfully difficult.
That's right. Like so many other aspects of life, teamwork comes down to mastering a set of behaviors that are at once theoretically uncomplicated, but extremely difficult to put into practice day after day. Success comes only for those organizations that overcome the all-too-human behavioral tendencies that corrupt teams and breed dysfunctional politics within them.
As it turns out, these principles apply to more than just teamwork. In fact, I stumbled on them somewhat by accident in my pursuit of a theory about leadership.
A few years ago I wrote my first book, The Five Temptations of a CEO, about the behavioral pitfalls that plague leaders. In the course of working with my clients, I began to notice that some of them were "misusing" my theories in an effort to assess and improve the performance of their leadership teams -- and with success!
And so it became apparent to me that the five temptations applied not only to individual leaders but, with a few modifications, to groups as well. And not just within corporations. Clergy, coaches, teachers, and others found that these principles applied in their worlds as much as they did in the executive suite of a multinational company. And that is how this book came to be.
Like my other books, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team begins with a story written in the context of a realistic but fictional organization. I have found that this allows readers to learn more effectively by losing themselves in a story and by being able to relate to the characters. It also helps them understand how these principles can be applied in a nontheoretical, real-world environment, where the pace of work and the volume of daily distractions make even the simplest of tasks seem arduous.
In order to help you apply the material in your own organization, a brief section following the story outlines the five dysfunctions in detail. That section also includes a self-assessment and suggested tools for overcoming the issues that might be plaguing your team.
Finally, although this book is based on my work with CEOs and their executive teams, its theories are applicable for anyone interested in teamwork, whether they lead a small department within a company or are simply a member of a team that could use some improvement. Whatever the case may be, I sincerely hope it helps your team overcome its particular dysfunctions so that it can achieve more than individuals could ever imagine doing alone. That, after all, is the real power of teamwork.
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
"As compelling, readable and practical as his other books. I'm sure this will be another business classic."
—Richard Carr, President & CEO, TEC International
"Every manager and executive will recognize themselves somewhere in this book. Lencioni distills the problems that keep even the most talented teams from realizing their full potential. Even more important, he shows — in prose that is crisp, clear, and fun to read — how to solve them."
—Geoffrey A. Moore, Chairman, The Chasm Group, Author, Crossing the Chasm; Inside the Tornado; Living on the Fault Line
"I read most best-selling business books. What sets Lencioni apart is his ability to provide insightful and practical solutions to complex management challenges."
—Phillip Hildebrand, Executive VP and Chief Distribution Officer, New York Life Insurance Company
"A gripping analysis of what makes teams work effectively. This fine work is a must read for any leader that has come to grips with the fact that no one makes progress — much less succeeds — alone."
—James Amos, president and CEO, Mail Boxes, Etc.
"Compelling and incisive, this will become the definitive guide on how to build and manage successful teams."
—Jean Kovacs, president and CEO, Comergent Technologies