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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Dysfunctional Teams

At the ASTD keynote by Patrick Lencioni - Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Quick search and I found some good notes on different web sites so I don't have to type so much. Here's a good one.

He used an interesting thing in order to get questions - gave free copies of his book to people with questions. He got a lot of questions right away - not sure it works all that well with an audience of 5,000.

The Five Dysfunctions of Teams are:

Absence of Trust: Trust is the foundation of real teamwork. However, in most teams members will not be "vulnerable" with each other (air dirty laundry, admit mistakes, weaknesses and concerns without fear of reprisal). Without trust the team will not be able to achieve results.

One member of a team can break down trust. You can't go into a process unwilling to get rid of any team members.

Even if it's the leader - who you must be honest with about their issues.

You should be more vulnerable - but must be genuine. Vulnerability is always a little painful. Can you be too vulnerable? No. But showing yourself as incompetent is not good either.

Fear of Conflict: Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate about ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.

Productive, idealogical conflict is good. This looks different for different teams. Conflict in Japan is quite different from the US. He talked about NY vs. Silicon Valley. Not important the style that's in use, but you want to know they are engaging when they disagree.

You have to be able to disagree, even passionately.

Why don't you do it more? Fear of getting feelings hurt. His point is that if you don't have conflict around issues it will become conflict around people.

Leader must model and even mine for conflict.

Lack of Commitment: Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions.

Without conflict there's no commitment. He doesn't necessarily want consensus. Most times you have an important decision to make - you have to hear everyone out and then decide which one to go with. If they don't feel they've been heard, they will simply not commit.

Disagree and commit.

Avoidance of Accountability: Without commitment and buy-in to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.

Biggest problem on teams. Peer-to-peer accountability is the most powerful. If they know that peers don't buy in, then there won't be action.

Leader must be willing to confront tough problems. CEO might say - I don't have the time and energy for that. Afraid to hold people accountable for behaviors. People don't like to do these confrontational events.

Inattention to Results: Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where team members put their individual needs or even the needs of their division above the collective goals of the team.

What else can you focus on? Feelings. Relationships.

Healthy teams:

  • Members trust one another.
  • They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
  • They commit to decisions and plans of action.
  • They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans.
  • They focus on the achievement of collective results.


john castledine said...

Nice summary of an interesting book. I'm also a fan of his more recent publication 'Three Signs of a Miserable Job'.

In both cases there is plenty of good advice in what Lencioni advocates !

V Yonkers said...

One major factor missing is external support and sufficient resources (including time, communication technology, and a budget). Many of those 5 factors of a dysfunctional team are often the result of lack of time, direction, authority (to make decisions or manage their own group)and budget.

Tony Karrer said...

Thanks for the link to the other book John. He mentions similar themes in his talk around teams.

Virginia - that's a good point - but often I think that time is a cop-out for other things. In fact, Patrick almost makes that exact point saying that a common statement is that people avoid difficult conversations saying they don't have time.

Do you really feel that lack of communication technology and budget is a major contributor to teams not working?

I would agree that lack of support for the team, lack of direction and authority are major issues.

V Yonkers said...

Gersick has a good model that shows that groups/teams do come together for a final "push" to finish a task. The idea of time is not necessarily finding time, but rather being able to coordinate schedules and the other tasks outside of a specific team's tasks. This is especially true with virtual and distributed groups. Sometimes, having too much time (and other responsibilities) can make groups unproductive.

In terms of communication technology, I have worked in groups in which 1) the communication technology was incompatible (in international contexts especially) or non-existent or 2) one of the team members did not know how or want to use the technology chosen by the team for communication. Believe me, it is impossible to get anything accomplished (i.e. in the 1990's while working on a project in Hungary, our communication had to go through Austria, the Czech republic, and various Hungarian Universities before it arrived at our Center. Often the message would not get there, end up somewhere else, or end up jumpled. This was true with electronic, fax and telephone communications.)

Anonymous said...

Excellent, practical pointers. I see rather more evidence of these than I would like in my own team. In fact, one member of my "team" recently pointed out that we are not, in fact, a team at all, but a collection of individuals. As a consequence, we tend to work in little siloes, with litte cross pollenation going on. I can't help thinking the user experience would be improved by a few additional perspectives along the way!

Dr. Christiana said...

I sat in that session thinking: oh we have trust on our team...but nothing else. Especially not healthy conflict. Sigh. We are that church staff he mentioned.

Tony Karrer said...

Christiana - nice to see that there was another person at the conference who connected with this blog. I believe I've seen your name before - we should have connected in some way at the conference. Maybe next time.

Clint Lalonde said...

In a virtual elearning context, one thing I believe is important to a healthy is a strong social connection between team members, beyond the task at hand.

Wing Lam, Alton Chua, Jeremy B. Williams and Cecelia Lee presented a paper at the 2005 ascilite conference which noted that poor performing teams have a lack of informal social communication, while high functioning teams have a high level of informal social bonding (lots of small talk and banter).

Granted, the list is only five traits and not meant to be comprehensive, but do you think this informal social interaction is necessary for a healthy team, especially a virtual team?

Tony Viani said...

Hi Tony:
I found it interesting that you took a linear approach to the requirements of a successful team project.
1. Without trust a team cannot achieve an adequate level of ‘unfiltered’ debate or conflict.
2. Without appropriate debate or discussion a team will not achieve an adequate level of commitment to the team goal(s).
3. Without commitment or buy-in to the plan to achieve the team goals there will be no accountability.
4. Without individual accountability, there will be a failure to put team goals ahead of individual goals.
5. Without focus and agreement on pursuing the team goals the chances of a successful completion of the team project will be low.
So if I read you correctly, it is not enough to structure team projects with mere inclusion of the necessary functional elements. Facilitators should really allow the team project to grow and evolve towards team success. The team really cannot evolve without first establishing trust to enable healthy conflict and debate helping to formulate an action plan that holds each member accountable for meeting the overarching team goals…connected to the knee bone…
Thank you for your insight.

Lisa Read said...

Tony--I find that where in the past I used to compartmentalize these sorts of ideas into: "True on the Internet?" and "True in Real Life?", but as time passed, I less often divide my thinking, and hold to the same expectations my virtual and RT teams.

And yet, as I read the list you've assembled, I think how different each of those points can look: building trust when you can't see someone's eyes, showing commitment by having presence, not hiding behind anonymity when resolving conflict, and the biggie, Accountability: how to show it, prove it, live it.

In the end, healthy teams pay attention to those tenets, regardless of where they meet.