The Five Dysfunctions of a Team


We have a more experienced and talented executive team than any of our competitors. We have more cash than they do. Thanks to Martin and his team, we have better core technology. And we have a more powerful board of directors. Yet in spite of all that, we are behind two of our competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth. Can anyone tell me why that is?

That's the opening address that Kathryn, the main character of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, uses to initiate a process of fixing her dysfunctional team at DecisionTech, a fictional Silicon Valley start-up. Kathryn was brought in as a replacement CEO and what follows is a story of suspense which you just can't let go until you learn whether Kathryn will be successful at turning her team around and whether DecisionTech will finally make it.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is not your typical business book. Not only it reads extremely well, but it also avoids proscriptive style of most business books (O.K., except in the addendum at the end, but one can skip that) that I find so repulsive. The end result is a solid and convincing presentation of the five dysfunctions that prevent teams from succeeding. These are

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

Even though the book is written very well, it was still painful to read. Namely, we experienced all these dysfunctions also at Zemanta and the book brought back many not so pleasant memories about transformation that we undertook over the past several years. Furthermore, we still have a few dysfunctions to resolve and the amount of effort, patience, and hard work that will be required to overcome them is more than a bit frightening. But now, thanks to this book, I have at least a solid understanding what is (still) not working with us and how we should go about to fix it.