Book Summary – Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers and Facilitators

Teamwork can be hard to measure and achieve. Yet, when you get it right, it can deliver seemingly-impossible results, and become a source of sustainable competitive advantage for your company, in today’s rapidly changing world. “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team” was written by Patrick Lencioni as a follow-up to best-seller The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, to provide a guide for leaders and practitioners to apply the concepts in the original book. In this summary, we’ll outline the 5 dysfunctions or elements that often cripple teams, and how you can convert them into 5 factors of success.

For more details, do check out our complete book summary bundle or read the book for the full details!

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team summary_book summary bundle
Before you move into team-building, there are 2 fundamental questions to ask yourselves:

• Are we really a team? A team should be small (3-12 people) and must share common goals. If your group doesn’t fulfill these criteria, you may need to regroup or form a smaller group that does.

• Are we ready to do what it takes? Building a real team requires members to invest time and energy, and to get uncomfortable.  Are you and your team members ready for that?

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

With these prerequisites out of the way, we can now look at the 5 Dysfunctions of a team, and how to convert them into Success Factors.Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team summary_The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and results are critical elements of team performance. Using a fable in his earlier book, Lencioni illustrated how the absence of these 5 elements can cripple teams. In this book, he defines each area, outlines how their lack can handicap teams, and how to overcome them. Each ingredient is important not so much in itself, but in laying the foundation upon which the next ingredient is built, to deliver the ultimate goal of results.

Build Trust


Trust is the most important ingredient of teamwork. Yet, it is also typically lacking because there’s no universal definition, and most people find it hard to admit their mistakes or shortcomings.

Developing genuine trust requires team members (starting with the leader) to garner courage and become vulnerable first. The process takes time and requires ongoing maintenance, but it can be accelerated. Lencioni elaborates on 2 useful exercises to build trust, including the “Personal Histories Exercise” and “Behavioural Profiling”.

Read more on how to build trust, using our complete 12-page summary, or get a copy of the book for full details.


Master Conflict


“Good conflict” is about open, constructive and passionate debates about issues that affect organizational success. However, this seldom exists because most teams are trying to maintain artificial harmony by avoiding difficult issues. Others are the opposite, wasting time and energy managing perceived personal attacks, manipulating conversations and trying to win arguments (rather than solve real problems).

Lencioni explains the ideal conflict point, and how to build on trust (as a necessary prerequisite) to allow members to push one another outside their emotional comfort zones. He explains several tools to facilitate constructive conflict, including how to profile conflict, establish rules of engagement, encourage conflict, and resolve conflict.

Get more details on how to master conflict, from the book or our full summary.


Achieve Commitment


Team commitment isn’t about consensus, but the willingness to embrace a decision without consensus. Two crucial ingredients – buy-in and clarity – are necessary to build commitment. For example, consider this powerful insight: contrary to common belief, most people are willing to buy in to a decision – even if it is different from their own suggestions – so long as their own ideas have been considered and explained in the context of the final decision. This is an important building block for leaders to build commitment in their teams.


Embrace Accountability


Accountability in the context of this book is about team members’ willingness to hold one another responsible for living up to the group’s decisions and performance standards. Strong teams don’t depend on the leader as the main source of accountability; their true motivation to perform comes from peer pressure and the desire not to let down a fellow team member.

The culture of accountability needs to start with the leader, who must uphold behavioural standards (e.g. confronting a staff who is badmouthing a company initiative, or someone who is not handling a task to expectation), and reinforce the habit of constructive feedback.
Get our complete summary (or read the entire book) for more details on how to use (a) the Team Effectiveness Exercise and (b) meetings to deepen accountability and performance.


Focus on Results


Even when a team has successfully overcome the previous dysfunctions, they still may not achieve results due to the lack of clear measurements, or the natural inclination to put self-interest or self-preservation before others (including the teams). The only way to overcome this, is to make win-win, common team goals visible and the constant focus of the team’s attention.

Review the ideas from this book with our book summary and infographic!


Other details in “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team”

This is a concise and easy-to-read book, focusing on practical tools, exercises, assessments and real-world examples for overcoming the 5 dysfunctions of teams, to deliver great results. For each of the tips covered in our full 12-page bundle, Lencioni provides case studies/ examples, including facilitation tips for leaders and practitioners.

To give a better idea of what is involved in the team-building process, he also provides:
• Answers to a list of commonly asked questions, e.g. How long it takes to build a team, whether to manage the process inhouse or via an external consultant/ facilitator;
• A list of potential objections from participants and potential pitfalls to look out for (e.g. leaders who aren’t truly committed to team-building, members who resist or dominate the sessions, handling geographically-dispersed teams etc.); and
• Details of team building exercises, assessment tools etc. mentioned in the book.

 Read “The Advantage” summary to find out how cohesive leadership teams work as one of the 4 vital components for building organizational health.

For more details, tips and resources, do check out his website, buy the book here (or get a more detailed overview in our Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team summary bundle!)
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