Book Discussion: Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”

Welcome to episode 87 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss our thoughts on the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

Original Recording Date: 08-01-2020

Topics – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Book Report

00:55 – Introducing the Book Discussion Episode

  • If you have read the book, we would love to hear your feedback.
  • 1:33 – The book format is a business fable (presents a lesson in the form of a story).
  • 2:14 – John shares a quick summary of the book’s plot that centers mostly on the CEO and executive team at a technology startup.
  • The book is available on Audible as well. DM us if you want a free copy!
  • What are the 5 Dysfunctions? Nick walks through them.
    • Absence of Trust
    • Fear of Conflict
    • Lack of Commitment
    • Avoidance of Accountability
    • Inattention to Results

5:14 – Trusting Business Fables

  • John is somewhat suspicious of the business fable approach, and Nick suggests practicing a willing suspension of disbelief with these types of fictional stories.
  • The story is told from the point of view of the CEO with some insight into the other characters’ thoughts and feelings.
  • John’s suspicion of this style of book comes from having read Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson and being pretty frustrated with it.
  • We’ve discussed The Goal as well as The Phoenix Project on the show previously. Those books taught the characters through a Socratic method, while this specific book doesn’t go about it in quite the same way.
    • John liked both books mentioned above but still found them magical to some extent.
  • Is the author trying to get the reader to accept the 5 dysfunctions as absolute truth or as a framework for use in certain situations?

13:00 – Applicability of the Lessons

  • If you are trying to become a front line manager, is this book’s lesson applicable?
    • Nick says yes, but it isn’t quite apples to apples with the structure of the team presented in the book.
    • John comments that all members of a team likely do not work on a single project together like the executive team in the book worked on the success of the company.
    • Is our help desk analogy right? Send us some feedback!
    • John shares an example of his teammates at Google, how they work on projects, and how collected teams work together. Then he relates it back to being within an IT organization (i.e. working across team silos).
    • With the team construct in the book being people who work under the same manager, we found it difficult to generalize to other teams spread across multiple managers.

20:35 – Highlights from the Book

  • The new CEO in the book took about 4 weeks to observe and understand the situation at the company.
  • The CEO had a very controlled tone in the conversations, keeping her emotions in check early on in interactions with the team.
    • John mentioned there were a number of tense situations in the book. Not everything went perfectly.
  • The CEO spoke to deciding between allowing a conflict to continue compared to solving it for the team members. It was a similar decision point as to when to address bad behavior vs. allowing teammates to hold one another accountable.
  • The difficult conversations in the book were situations the CEO had experienced previously. She learned from not getting those right in the past and developed the process she presented to her new team.
  • Encouraging vulnerability was encouraged by the CEO. At the end of the book, we hear some specific exercises on encouraging vulnerability.
  • Many of the hard conversations happen at a team offsite. Not all reactions from the executive team are positive, even the reaction to conflicting priorities about going to the offsite in the first place.
  • The CEO restated the team’s problem at every offsite to remind them of the why behind what they were doing and to drive unity.
  • Consensus is bad. This was more specific to difficult decisions and situations (i.e. high stakes).
    • If there is consensus, does that mean you need more people who think differently on the team?
  • Disagree, then commit. Healthy conflict within the team when making difficult decisions is welcome. Members of the team need to have their viewpoint heard.
  • The executive team had to learn this team was their first team and first priority. All the reports should come in below this.
    • Should a manager’s first priority be loyalty to their team of peers?
    • Nick labels the John White Paradox.

35:48 – Summary Discussion

  • Is this a good book to read to learn management lessons?
    • Nick says yes. The nuggets from the way the CEO acted, thought, and controlled emotions were very helpful.
    • John also says yes but struggled with the focus on an executive group in the story.
  • Are there other situations in which this book is worth reading?
    • Even if you are not a manager, anyone leading a team focused on a project can still use the tools described in this book.
  • Do you believe the lessons in the book?
    • Nick says yes, but get information from multiple sources to get a sense of what good looks like.
    • John labels this as an interesting framework for team success through building good practices, encouraging good behavior, etc.
  • Nick recommends reading The Manager’s Path by Camille Fornier and Systems of Engineering Management by Will Larson. Maybe we’ll review one of these in a future episode.
  • Reach out to us with your thoughts on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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