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Five Dysfunctions: Root Causes for Corporate Illness

18 May 2009 Written by: Jorge Lazaro Diaz One Comment

I read “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” the first time a few years back when I was researching leadership and team dynamics. I’ve always enjoyed building teams and understanding why some work and others fail miserably.  This book explores the topic and describes a simple formula for identifying what works, what doesn’t and what you can do about it.

The book is a written as a corporate fable with two hundred or so pages written in large print.  You can finish it in a few hours, but don’t let that fool you.  It tells the story of a Silicon Valley technology company that’s clearly struggling. The board has demote the company’s young founder and with Ketherine, an older outsider with no experience in technology.   For the first few weeks, the CEO stays low key observing the behavior of the executive team.  We meet this interesting bunch, as does Katherine, and immediately see why the company might be floundering.  (Unfortunately, it reminded me of oh so many  people I’ve worked with over the years.)

Katherine’s first action is to hold an executive off site retreat. There she tackles the team problems head on.  She initially gets the push back you’d expect from a team that’s been “misbehave” for so long, but by pointing out areas where they are underperforming the team starts seeing the light.  The team takes some forward strides and falls back.  Some of the team members embrace the changes, others dislike it.  There’s some fall out and some quit.  As the story progresses, she shows the team (and the reader) how a lack of trust among team members leads to poor results.   She shows us the root causes to the dysfunctions the short circuit what could otherwise be a smooth running team.   Using a simple pyramid drawing, she shows how the concepts work together for success.

What I most like about the book is that it breaks down the issues that makes teams work and shows how the dysfunctions, if allowed to fester, lead to poor performance. It can easily be used to help leaders to explore issues troubling their teams in order to make  poor teams better and good teams great.

When I interviewed with my current boss, I noticed she kept a copy on her shelf. I saw this as a good thing. After working with her a few months, I asked to borrow it so I could read it again. It was a good refresher and helped me put into words what I know in my gut and put it into practice.

The book reads well and illustrates the lessons very clearly. It doesn’t seem artificial or contrived. On the contrary, it sounds more like real life than I’d like to admit.

Ask me any question you like about the book.  I’ll do my best to give you my answer to help you figure out if this book’s worth a read from the problems that ail you.


Jorge Lazaro Diaz

Jorge Lazaro Diaz is the "Original" Career Jockey who started this blog and now serves as the Managing Editor. You'll find he enjoys focusing on professional and personal development articles and frequently covers motivational and spiritual topics.

You can learn so much about this author by clicking here.

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