A New Lencioni Team Tool
A Review by Roger Coleman
Over the past three years, there have been over a thousand books published on the topic of leadership, and often on my travels I’ve seen the most unlikely characters reading these things—as if mere concentration and a highlighter comprised the incubator of leadership.
More to the point, in the same time period, there has been only a handful of books on team culture or team development, especially if you put aside the books filled with “games teams can play”—which is exactly the opposite of what it takes to develop great teams. It makes one wonder: with so much attention on “leaders” and so little on “teams”—the vehicles for getting things done—just who are these leaders leading?
In an era when companies that use teams are clearly outpacing companies that do not, it’s curious there is such a paucity of literature. Jon Katzenback and Douglas Smith co-authored a wise treatise on teams in 1993—The Wisdom of Teams. That spring its distillation was published as a Harvard Business Review article: The Discipline of Teams, which we continue to share with new Patient Visit Redesign teams in the Coleman Associates training programs.
But little additional help hit the bookshelves until Patrick Lencioni’s 2002 work—The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Formulated as an engaging fable illustrating the five dysfunctions, it had a brief appendix-like concluding section that succinctly explained each of these possible team afflictions. It is a very solid work about what can go awry with teams and how effective teams can be if they avoid these common but profound pitfalls. If you haven’t read it, we highly recommend it.
It is a fast read. In fact, the trick to really understanding Lencioni’s points is to force yourself to read slowly and reflect rather than race through the prose and be done with it. The problem with the book is that it is possible to miss much of Lencioni’s wisdom. The thin easy-to-read volume skates along too jauntily for most readers to give it the serious thought and attention it deserves.
So, it is with great enthusiasm that we greet and recommend Lencioni’s sequel: Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide, which was published this year. Lencioni has aimed this guide at leaders, managers, and facilitators, but it’s a solid handbook for any team, for all team members. It covers each of the five dysfunctions in detail, and provides practical exercises for diagnosing and treating problem areas.
There’s also a section on “common questions”, filled with Lencioni’s trademark practical advice. “Should I use an outside consultant or facilitator?” Lencioni responds: “The key to this question is whether you can find a good consultant or facilitator. If not, go it alone. If you know someone who is practical, trustworthy, and skillful, then it may be a good idea to bring them in.”
Lencioni wraps up the field guide with a detailed agenda for a one to two day off-site work session with managers and team members.
This is worthy tool for anyone on a team or involved in developing teams. We highly recommend it. It’s available for $16 through Amazon.com.