Five dysfunctions of a team.

January 14, 2021

According to Patric Lencioni (author of Five dysfunctions of a Team), organizations fail to achieve teamwork because they unknowingly fall prey to the five natural but dangerous pitfalls: lack of trust, fear of confrontation, lack of commitment, lack of accountability, and lack of focus on goals. If one of these dysfunctions is present in a team, it results in poor team performance.

Lack of trust

One key dysfunction is the lack of trust within a team. When lacking trust, communication and cooperation may break down, and team members may engage in political or self-preserving behaviours. In contrast, in a functional team, each team member is confident that the other team members will show up for them in a supportive, fair and equitable manner.

Fear of confrontation

Another dysfunction is fear of confrontation. A vague continuous improvement narrative characterizes this. In a dysfunctional team, members refrain from discussing complex or sensitive topics and giving candid feedback. Conversely, effective teams embrace the conflict and confrontation that arise from diverse and heterogeneous perspectives. Furthermore, members actively seek out candid feedback as a means to identify individual and collective growth opportunities. Furthermost, team members can constructively resolve differences through open, respectful communication focused on the team’s goals. As a result, effective teams can efficiently and effectively cycle through periods of disagreement and cohesion.

Lack of commitment

Lack of commitment is another dysfunction that can lead to poor team performance. A lack of energy, engagement and participation is characteristic of this. As a result, dysfunctional teams need help to show progress; projects always seem to putter along forever without any growing sense of urgency. In well-functioning teams, once a consensus is reached, the team takes collective ownership of the decision and works together to execute on it. Team members are vested in progressing goals.

Lack of accountability

Lack of accountability can also be a dysfunction within a team. A lack of ownership and entrepreneurship is characteristic of this. The dysfunctional team is not answerable for their lack of follow-through, whereas functional teams are answerable. In functioning teams, members are honest about their commitments and whether they are collectively and individually delivering on them. Each team member can accurately articulate progress towards shared goals. Teams are self-aware: they can celebrate accomplishments while also honestly reflecting on their continuously improving journey.

Lack of focus

Lastly, a lack of focus on goals is a dysfunction that can lead to poor team performance. Dysfunctional teams may fragment their efforts across multiple, frequently competing priorities. Frequently this spread investment results in slow value realization. Conversely, effective teams have clear goals and priorities. Team members clearly understand the criteria for completing the goal. In a functioning team, the effort is always focused on the next action that will bring the team closer to achieving its highest priority goal. By concentrating their investment, value is realized quickly and incrementally.


I'm Erich Wilgenbus.

Balderdash offers my perspective on purpose, as well as people, project and program management. I serve in Tech.

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