Characteristics of dysfunctional teams

[Credit: This post refers to a book by Patrick Lencioni, one of the most influencial books I have read in my life. From Wikipedia: ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a bestselling[1] business book by consultant and speaker Patrick Lencioni. It describes the many pitfalls that teams face as they seek to “row together”‘]

In my last post about characteristics of high-performance teams, I discussed the tenets of high-performance teams (as given by The Wisdom of Teams). In this post, I want to discuss the characteristics of a dysfunctional team, as defined by The five dysfunctions of a team, a fable about a dysfunctional leadership team, and compare and contrast them with tenets of a high-performance team where I can.

Here are the five dysfunctions of a team (from Wikipedia article about the book):

  1. Absence of Trust: Trust is critical in building a high-performance team and lack of trust is very visible in a dysfunctional team. Most telltale sign of lack of trust is that no one would bring up any issue/problems which will show him/her weak or vulnerable. ‘Having the guard on all the time’ is a characteristic of a team member in a dysfunctional team. I remember my experience with a leadership team; even though the project was in very bad shape, the manager in charge would always talk about great things the team was accomplishing and any uttering by other team members to the contrary was termed by the leader as ‘lack of team work’! Needless to say, there was no trust in the team.
  2. Fear of Conflict: Fear of conflict means that conversation and feedback cannot be candid and difficult questions can’t be asked, because they can give rise to conflicts. This in turn happens because lack of trust causes people to suspect the motive of the person doing the questioning/commenting and it becomes a personal matter rather than team’s. Continue reading

Characteristics of High-performance Teams

In this post, I would like to discuss about characteristics of high-performance teams as defined in The Wisdom of Teams. For more detailed review of the book that I wrote sometime back, see here: Part-I, Part-II and Part-III.

The book defines a team as follows (my formatting)

A small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and working approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

Notice the key words (which are very well explained in the book, what follows is my interpretation and usage of them):

1.       Small number: This is important. It is very hard for a large group of people to come together and form a team, primarily because it is hard to meet other criteria with a large group. Typical size that works well is 5-8 in my opinion. Anything big, and you should consider splitting or having a ‘working group’ (another term defined in the book).

2.       Complementary skills: For a team to function properly, it should have all the necessary skills for the common purpose it exists for. However, many times, team members are picked because of their organizational positions, being closer to the problem, and other extraneous reasons. Beware of such team, they are more likely to have team members with similar skills and/or a big skill  gap in the team, both of which are dangerous for team success.

Continue reading