Apr 22 2009

Book Short: Wither the Team

Book Short:  Wither the Team

I keep expecting one of his books to be repetitive or boring, but Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team held my interest all the way through, as did his others.  It builds nicely on the last one I read, Death by Meeting (post, link).

I’d say that over the 9 1/2 years we’ve been in business at Return Path, we’ve systematically improved the quality of our management team.  Sometimes that’s because we’ve added or changed people, but mostly it’s because we’ve been deliberate about improving the way in which we work together.  This particular book has a nice framework for spotting troubles on a team, and it both reassured me that we have done a nice job stamping out at least three of the dysfunctions in the model and fired me up that we still have some work to do to completely stamp out the final two (we’ve identified them and made progress, but we’re not quite there yet.

The dysfunctions make much more sense in context, but they are (in descending order of importance):

  • Absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict (everyone plays politically nice)
  • Lack of commitment (decisions don’t stick)
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Inattention to results (individual ego vs. team success)

For those who are wondering, the two we’re still working on at the exec team level here are conflict and commitment.  And the two are related.  If you don’t produce engaged discussion about an issue and allow everyone to air their opinions, they will invariably be less bought into a decision (especially one they don’t agree with).  But we’re getting there and will continue to work aggressively on it until we’ve rooted it out.

There’s one other interesting takeaway from the book that’s not part of the framework directly, which is that an executive has to be first and foremost a member of his/her team of peers, not the head of his/her department.  That’s how successful teams get built.  AND (this is key) this must trickle down in the organization as well.  Everyone who manages a team of group heads or managers needs to make those people function well as a team first, then as managers of their own groups second.

At any rate, another quick gem of a book.  I’m kind of sorry there’s only one left in the series.

So far the series includes:

I have one or two more to go, which I’ll tackle in due course and am looking forward to.