The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

by Patrick M. Lencioni


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In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni once again offers a leadership fable that is as enthralling and instructive as his first two best-selling books, The Five Temptations of a CEO and The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive. This time, he turns his keen intellect and storytelling power to the fascinating, complex world of teams.

Kathryn Petersen, Decision Tech's CEO, faces the ultimate leadership crisis: Uniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company. Will she succeed? Will she be fired? Will the company fail? Lencioni's utterly gripping tale serves as a timeless reminder that leadership requires as much courage as it does insight.

Throughout the story, Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams even the best ones-often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Just as with his other books, Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780787960759
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 04/05/2002
Series: J-B Lencioni Series , #13
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 3,529
Product dimensions: 6.96(w) x 11.28(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

PATRICK M. LENCIONI is founder and president of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in executive team development and organizational health. As a consultant and keynote speaker, he has worked with thousands of senior executives and their teams in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to high-tech startups to universities and nonprofits. Lencioni is the author of 11 best-selling books, including The Advantage and The Ideal Team Player.

To learn more about Patrick, and the products and services offered by his firm, The Table Group, please visit

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Table of Contents

Introduction vii

The Fable 1

Luck 3

Part One: Underachievement 5

Part Two: Lighting the Fire 27

Part Three: Heavy Lifting 115

Part Four: Traction 171

The Model 185

An Overview of the Model 187

Team Assessment 191

Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions 195

A Note About Time: Kathryn’s Methods 221

A Special Tribute to Teamwork 223

Acknowledgments 225

About the Author 229

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


Author Essay
Overcoming Team Politics and Dysfunction

Because teams are made up of human beings with various agendas and frailties, many teams are easily susceptible to politics and inefficiency, especially within organizations. From first-line management teams to the executive suite, teams of all types experience some level of dysfunction and politics.

Fortunately, the causes of team dysfunction and politics are both understandable and curable. However, these problems don't die easily. Making a team functional and cohesive requires levels of courage and discipline that many groups simply cannot muster.

To better understand the level of dysfunction that may plague your team, ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. Do team members hold back their opinions?
  2. Do team meetings tend to be boring?
  3. Does the pursuit of consensus bog down your team?
  4. Do team members hesitate to call each other on their shortcomings?
  5. Do team members put their own goals and interests ahead of those of the team?
Although no team is perfect and even the best teams sometimes struggle with one or more of these issues, the finest organizations constantly work to ensure that their answers are no. Focusing on these issues helps any team benefit from the extraordinary power of true teamwork.

If you answered yes to many of these questions, your team is probably experiencing some level of dysfunction. The beginning steps in overcoming these issues within your organization are understanding that there are five dysfunctions and addressing them.

Building and sustaining a functional and cohesive team is not easy however, the rewards are significant. Functional teams avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over again because of lack of buy-in. Additionally, functional teams accomplish more in less time and with less distraction and frustration. Finally, "A" players rarely leave organizations when they are part of a cohesive team.

Ironically, as desirable as these qualities are, they continue to remain elusive, making teamwork even more powerful. The fact is, in this age of nanosecond competitive advantage and instant commoditization, building a strong team remains one of the few opportunities for sustainable and significant differentiation, one that every organization should covet. (Patrick M. Lencioni)

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Five Dysfunctions of a Team 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 193 reviews.
Lencioni_Fan More than 1 year ago
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a book I enjoyed which Pat Lencioni wrote the foreword for. I found Lencioni's foreword intriguing (apparently I was the one person who hadn't heard of him). So, I decided to check The Five Dysfunctions out, and am so glad that I did. This book explores the fundamental causes of organizational politics and team failure. Lencioni does an outstanding job showing a team that's going through some typical, real-world sticking points, yet is able to maneuver through them successfully. The central premise is that any team can work together effectively once they understand and overcome the five dysfunctions. The Five Dysfunctions are: * Absence of Trust, * Fear of Conflict, * Lack of Commitment, * Avoidance of Accountability, and * Inattention to Results I'm now using The Five Dysfunctions with my work group with great success. They were already reading the EI 2.0 book, and didn't skip a beat when I threw this one into the mix. Highly recommended.
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
As a corporate human resources director, I am continually searching for material that will enhance our organizations team skills. Somewhat like another management book that I recommended Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions, the author uses fictional tales to deliver truthful insights into our business practices. I found the book to be a very intertaining and fun read along with a ton of valuable information.

The concepts within the book can be easily implemented and will result in continual improvement in your team building endeavors. The value of teamwork within the modern corporate structure is sometimes a hard sell in the real world. Managers need reference material and books that contain much needed advice if they are going to `prove' the value of teamwork to the CEO. Like communication, everyone says it is important but the rubber rarely meets the road.

The part of the book that details the "five dysfunctions" is a great reference guide and also a topic that sounds eerily familiar as all seasoned managers have been down that road. The `five' are:

1. Absence of trust,
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. Avoidance of accountability
5. Inattention to results.

I recommend this book because I believe it will be a valuable addition to your bookshelf and certainly one that will be referenced again and again through the years. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR
DianeTHeel More than 1 year ago
My colleagues and I have been struggling with changes in leadership in the workplace. A dear friend recommended this book as a resource, so I went out and bought it that day (and a second copy for one of my work colleagues). The majority of the book focuses on the 'fable' of the team who has acquired a new leader. The remainder of the book is an easily read discussion of the 5 dysfunctions, how they impact the overall team/work of the group, and strategies for changing to a more effective approach. We're getting ready to use the book in some support sessions from our HR department. And my husband can't wait to read it next (I already lent it to someone else). Overall, an easy and entertaining read that has some real 'meat' in it -- reading it has given me the opportunity to identify some behaviors in myself that I'll be working to improve.
CPSA More than 1 year ago
Easy, quick read. The team assessment in the back of the book was the most valuabe piece for our organization and myself as a leader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a quick, fluffy read, suitable for hip managers to hand out at motivational meetings. The author paints a great picture of a new leader cajoling her 'team' into a position of trust, constructive conflict, etc. Of course, since the book is a 'fable', there is no question that she will be successful. The author is head of his own management consulting firm, but apparently hasn't actually been the leader of a successful business outside of the management seminar field. If he were, he'd understand that real world teamwork problems cannot be broken down into five simplistic catagories. The reader's money would be better spent on books that examine successful teams in the real world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The whole concept that conflict may be beneficial to a team is a very North American idea. But it is a recipe for disaster in a cross cultural group. The basic tenets set out in the book are correct and relevant, but 'arguements that are quickly forgotten' are probably confined to siblings. This is another management book with a few good ideas but can not be used as a life guide.
Anonymous 8 months ago
nisly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good book on organizational team dynamics.
stringsn88keys on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This information shouldn't be this novel, but, unfortunately, it is.
atomheart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been in corporate America for just under 4 years now. In my time, I've never really bought into the majority of management strategies I've seen because well, they blatantly do not work; and if they do, its at an absurd cost of employee retention, dissatisfaction and needless overwork. Passive aggressiveness, no accountability, scared of conflict... I see it too often, and I'm constantly frustrated by it. And just when I thought I was alone, I read this book and was completely blown away. Everything I've felt, is here, written down in this book. Its quite extraordinary. I feel a bit like Jerry Mcguire did after writing his 'Mission Statement.' I want to buy copies of this book and put it in the mailboxes of management across corporate America. Unfortunately, one thing I've learned in life is you can't force people to change, they have to be willing and accepting to move forward on there own... or be forced by a higher hand. I can't force others who don't see it themselves, and as the low man on the totem pole, its a hard to play the upper hand. But dammit, at least I'll go down swinging, knowing I'm not alone.
duckieyazi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book talks about team-building in a story-telling way and so it effectively illustrates the key concepts in team building. And it emphasize even more the importance of a good leader in building a team. If the leader does not view building a team as important, the team will never get formed. In this fable, the leader believes that with a good team built, results will follow. Hence, she was willing to let go of good but problematic staff that will affect team development and morale. If only all bosses can see the importance of team work and understand that it takes more than just some visionary words typed on a nice piece of paper..
amramey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Patrick Lencioni. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2002. 224 pp. $24.95.Typically a fable refers to anthropomorphized animals (e.g., Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny), not the classically generic idea of a mere fictional story. Patrick Lencioni writes a short story that illustrates what five dysfunctions look like at DecisionTech, a fictional company near the San Francisco Bay. A fifty-seven-year-old woman named Kathryn is hired as the new CEO of a 150-employee software company. She is now the lead executive of a highly dsyfunctional staff. The story allows the reader to be the proverbial fly on the wall in their numerous meetings. Dialogue dominates the unfolding plot. The book ends with 35 pages overviewing the model.The narrative style is not your typical leadership genre of choice. The genre and small page size make for a quick read.
rdwhitenack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Part of my summer study on leadership, I thought this book was going to be a dog. Total drudgery. I was way wrong. I read the book in a single sitting (something I have never done before). The fable was short and really interesting. I had (and still do) have some difficulty applying the philosophies to a school setting, but I think a light second-reading would easily solve that problem.Don't be fooled: this book serves the purpose of informing people on leadership that desire such knowledge. Readers picking up this book without that intent will most likely not enjoy it, but for the mission Lencioni set out on he accomplished it quite nicely. I purchased this book for the library at CVHS in regular format, it's manga version, as well as the follow up book Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions....
VVilliam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun fable of an ailing company and the CEO who saved it. The practices here worked great for the CEO, but I would have liked to see real examples or case studies. The overall message of trust being important on a team is a good one.
kivarson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Using the narrative device of a a new leader trying to improve the effectiveness of her management team, Lencioni explains common interpersonal relationship traits that function as obstacles to effective teamwork.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The main message of this book is that leaders need to focus on their teams. Effective teams will succeed, while dysfunctional teams will fail, or at least not live up to their potential, even if they have superior products or marketing.Most of the book is written as a "leadership fable" -- a story about a CEO and her team's struggles as she takes them through a team building process designed to buld trust, engage in healthy conflict, commit to common goals, hold each other accountable and remain focused on results. In the last part of the book, the model is explained and suggestions are provided for leaders who want to work on one or more of the dysfunctions.The model and the ideas presented are simple, which the author admits. The challenge comes in walking the talk on a continuous basis. The book is easy to read and has practical ideas that can be implemented in the real world.
bsanner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this engaging, insightful, and deceptively simple read, Lencioni blends a ¿leadership fable¿ (the fictitious account of DecisionTech¿s executive board) with a number of invaluable leadership principles. Specifically, Lencioni outlines five team dysfunctions that have the potential to render a team ineffective: (1) absence of trust, (2) fear of conflict, (3) lack of commitment, (4) avoidance of accountability, and (5) inattention to results. While far from exhaustive, Lencioni provides a thoughtful and penetrating snapshot on the importance and principles of team leadership. A
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read. The style made it very easy to get through in a matter of a few sittings and provided solid examples of the main pillars of each dysfunction prior to getting into the nuts and bolts of the actual theory. Lencioni provides a powerful message about team leadership and the problems that plague so many teams. I look forward to putting many of the strategies espoused in this book into practice in my own leadership roles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book for new and experienced managers....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a very quick and easy read. If you feel as I did that your team isn't firing on all cylinders I highly recommend this book. I'm a small business owner and after reading it myself I made it assigned reading for everyone on my team. The performance improvements I was trying to make to my team didn't resonate with them until we were all able to read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BartBlakely More than 1 year ago
A Must Read!! This book offers lots of valuable information for any team.  Lencioni puts it all into an easy to read story then breaks it out at the end of the book.  The story puts all the information into context and 'The Model' is something you can keep referring back to. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
5 Dysfunctions of a Team, is written so that someone with either a high school education or a masters degree can understand how to achieve an optimally run team within any office.  Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn how to be a successful part of a team.
meCG More than 1 year ago
There were two functions to this novel, the first being a "fable" meant to portray the management point of the dysfunctional team, and the second part being a review of the concepts that were illustrated in the fable. To the first part, as it was supposed to be fictional, I would only give 2 stars. Overall, the writing was overly simplistic, the dialogue felt forced and unrealistic, and the characters were basically unrealistic and arrogant (a word that was used far too many times to describe other characters while the main character was noted as "confident" even though she was many times the very same thing). This was a juxtaposition to the whole second part of the novel, while it was small, that was a review of the concepts. The writing in this area was far superior lending to a 3 star rating. This contrast of writing between the two functions made me wonder if the author felt that fictional writing should be slushy, or if they honestly were just more adept at analytical writing than story-telling. If the latter where true, that is what they should stick to; however, I must point out that in both areas of the novel there were issues with coordinating conjunctions. What was more surprising to me was the fact that at one point the character steps back and realizes that she shouldn't use the word but to begin one of her sentences because of the connotation that it holds. I wonder why the author didn't realize that it was used the same way throughout the novel, even amongst his own analytical writing. In the second section where the concepts are reviewed the writing is better, the points are much more clear and the basis of the novel is well thought out. I did see some similarities to concepts in Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, such as mutual respect. I could watch the interactions in the fable and apply the skills I learned from Crucial Conversations to work through the issues at hand. I believe that the concepts in the novel are a good basic rendering of dysfunctions of a team (lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results), many of which I can see occurring in organizations that I have worked for, but that the book lacks in-depth instructions of how to truly handle these issues. It shows one how to recognize these innate truths and how to allow others to see these issues are causing dysfunction, yet it lacks the length to go into how to deal with these. It also seems to be meant for a corporate raider who possibly isn't a part of the problem but is there to facilitate the correcting of the problem. From my experience, and as Crucial Conversations shows , many times all that are involved are a part of the problem, including executives. I think this book is a good foundation, but a more thorough book like Crucial Conversations is required to truly understand and correct the problem. Overall, I think this book would be good for a person who needs to learn by seeing an example of dysfunction; however, the fable part of the novel was lacking in fictional writing finesse.