I buy books. And sometimes I read them. This blog is for the times when I do more than just store shelf candy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Flipped the Pages of Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

My copy: Hardbound with Dust Jacket
ISBN: 9780787960759
229 pages

It only takes one sitting (in the salon, for me) to read through this book. Whether you’re multitasking or dedicating your full attention to this book, it would be time well spent. Easy, light, and quick reading but heavy on substance. Smacks of good sense. This made me want to get back into full employment just so I can lead a team and apply the learnings.

As a writer, speaker, and management consultant on leadership topics, Patrick Lencioni couldn’t help but notice that genuine teamwork was elusive in most organizations. So he set out to write a book that dissects the pitfalls to team effectiveness. This is the output.

Even though it uses a parable approach and it touches on soft skills, it doesn’t get touchy feely. And just because it discusses leadership principles, it does not get pedantic or preachy either. Cerebral but practical. It doesn’t tell you what to do, but it gives you a lot of ideas to chew on.

Lencioni talks about trust, commitment, communication, accountability. Yes, you’ve heard those before. On the surface, he does not offer anything new; no new clever buzzwords that will rock the HR community and will soon be part of every cliché-ridden inspirational speech. But what he does is present a fresh perspective on old fashioned concepts. What he does very well is to sew up all these concepts together as interrelated elements. He does not give us a an ala carte checklist of teamwork must-haves. He prescribes that all these elements must be present, that they are interconnected parts. Teamwork starts with trust and builds up from there. Not very radical. Maybe even too sensible. But when you look at the failed teams out there, you realize these ideas are not so common.

The fable format makes this very memorable and easy to follow. Certainly not an original concept, but it works for me. This is from an article about Patrick Lencioni and this book:

“I think people learn better when they're engaged in a story,’ says Lencioni. ‘A lot of people who don't like to read business books, or get bogged down by them, will like a good story. I felt like I could actually better convey the message and help people understand how it works in the world by taking them through with a character who is dealing with it.”

To capitalize on the power of the storytelling tradition – good call, Patrick. Fictional it may be, but it is a realistic fable. So realistic it brings me back to my own experience of dysfunctional teams. Even personal relationships among family and friends.

It also considers human nature. Egos in the team can get in the way of achieving results. His theories do not ignore but instead consider the reality of these egos and how they play out in the workplace as well as how they need to be balanced with team achievement.

The eureka moment for me is its take on conflict. That it’s necessary. That it can be productive, constructive. Lencionie says about conflict: “If it’s not a little uncomfortable then it is not real.” They key is to keep doing it anyway.” I think this applies to work teams and to personal relationships as well.

The fable approach does have its built-in weakness. Because it is focused on a fictional account of a team, no real case studies could be given to substantiate Lencioni’s theories. I guess the best way to test them is to try them. First, get a copy of this required reading for managers and leaders.

By the way, ExeQServe, a training and HR company that can help build your organization, offers team building workshops that use Lencioni's framework. Check out this link for various team building workshops. http://www.exeqserve.com/?cat=31 . There are indoor and outdoor options.

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