Revisiting the Five Dysfunctions of a Team!


About 20 years ago, I was considering transitioning from an individual contributor role to a management position at the company where I was employed at the time. I picked up Patrick Lencioni's book. As time passed, I leveraged all the learnings from this reading and put them into practice.


After a brief piece of prose that defines organizational health and explains why it is so often neglected despite being ‘an imperative for any business that wants to succeed’, Lencioni signals to his readers that the book they are about to read is in fact a fable — it’s fiction. Still, it deals with the challenges that teams face.


The story is about Kathryn Petersen, the new CEO of the American technology company DecisionTech, who inherits a team of talented but dysfunctional people. Lencioni introduces his ensemble cast of characters and sets up the team dynamic, including a few of the initial warning signs that flag dysfunction.

Lighting the Fire

Kathryn decides there is no avoiding addressing those issues, so she initiates the play ‘C does the laundry’. This dedicated chapter details the team members’ initial resistance and Kathryn’s attempts to build up trust — setting up for dramatized reflections on the underlying problems.

Heavy Lifting

Next thing you know, the team is addressing the first dysfunction: Absence of Trust. Arising out of a number of exercises and candid discussions, team members start to become vulnerable with each other, sharing their vulnerabilities and recognising their shortcomings and mistakes.


The chapter discusses the second dysfunction, Fear of Conflict, where Kathryn encourages them to have more healthy debate, and confrontations, and makes them do it. The team stumbles, but comes to an understanding of how productive conflict can help an organisation.

A Hunger for Commitment

Kathryn stresses commitment, the third dysfunction because if you don’t see conflict, team members can’t buy in — which means they’re not committed. People learn to accept that and buy-in, even if they have arguments.

Cascading Communication

The fourth dysfunction is Avoidance of Accountability. Kathryn required that everyone set clear goals and be accountable to one another. They practice giving direct feedback and calling out performance issues.

Focusing on Results

The last dysfunction, the fourth Inattention to Results, is tackled next. Kathryn switches the team’s focus away from individual aims and accepting whatever larger objectives might emerge and aimed towards collective outcomes. The team learns to prioritize the organization’s success over or even alongside personal success.

\Falling into Place

Things begin to get better. The team starts working more effectively and more harmoniously. It is enjoying the gifts that come from overcoming the five dysfunctions. As a team, things are working.


Lencioni concludes the fable by summarising the best takeaways and principles. He offers guidelines and specific tools for leaders to implement the model in their own teams. He also emphasizes the need to maintain healthy team culture by staying alert and continually putting in the effort.

Kathryn’s Return

He finishes with a short coda to demonstrate the lasting effects brought on by Kathryn’s leadership, and the difficulties her successors face in maintaining the momentum.


The book ends with an afterword in which Lencioni contemplates the practical uses of his model in the real world and offers readers additional perspectives and resources for those who want to explore the ideas further.

Along the way, Lencioni provides a running narrative to illustrate how these dysfunctions manifest in real teams. Finally, he provides specific steps to overcome each dysfunction. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is an extraordinary blend of narrative and practical knowledge that most business books could emulate.


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