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Home » Teams

The 5 dysfunctions of a team – model

Submitted by on Monday, 23 July 20127 Comments

Using a model in management is often helpful to share abstract concepts. The concept of teamwork is one such example, so this 5 dysfunctions of a team model may be of help to those keen on improving teamwork in their workgroups or organisations.


The team model comes from Patrick Lencini’s book Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (you can see the training programme here). A study into what causes teams to fail, it also gives insights into what teams can do to succeed, so it is not at all gloomy!

The model

Here is a visual of the model:

 5 dysfunctions of a team model


The Model Explained – and what you can do as a Team Leader

Teams are dysfunctional on five levels (and by definition they also perform effectively on five levels).

They are as follows:

1. Absence of Trust

Dysfunctional teams lack trust. Classic cases include:

  • When the boss takes all the praise for work his colleagues have done, and
  • When direct reports don’t deliver on what they have been asked to deliver on

What you can do

:: Be vulnerable. Explain from the heart what this project means to you, or

:: Go first. Address the problem in hand.

2. Fear of Conflict (Classic problem in Asia!)

Dysfunctional teams fear conflict. Note this does not mean that they are in conflict. Conflict can be either positive (demonstrating that people care) or negative (war!)

The key dynamic here is fear. When fear of conflict exists, relationships invariably break down.

What you can do

:: Actively mine for conflict. Prepare two questions at every meeting to discover sources of tension. Usually these will be areas of care – it’s great to find out what these are. Mining for conflict will dissolve the fear.

3. Lack of Commitment

Dysfunctional teams lack commitment. Team members in these groups don’t put in the effort, and don’t want to put in the effort.

What you can do

:: Discuss direction. Where is this team heading? Which goals can this team achieve? Which goals does it want to achieve?

:: Actively solicit buy-in. What does this direction / what do these goals mean to each of the team members? Get clear with these goals.

4. Avoidance of Accountability (Classic problem in Asia!)

Often linked to Dysfunction 2: Fear of Conflict, avoidance of accountability happens when team members don’t hold other members to the team’s collective goals and commitments.

What you can do

:: Confront the difficult issues

:: Be prepared for and open to robust discussions

:: Accept that strong teams need each person contributing in every way (‘a fleet only moves as fast as its slowest vessel’)

5. Inattention to Results

Dysfunctional teams don’t pay attention to results. They may also not care about results.

What you can do

:: Get a scoreboard up where the key goals are clearly displayed, and everyone’s contribution towards those goals can be recognised.

:: Reward contributions rigorously, no matter how small.

The Bottom Line

It’s not unusual for teams to experience the whirlpool effect, where one dysfunction can lead to another. If this is allowed to continue unchecked, it will accelerate until disengagement sets in.

This is why it’s important to patiently manage your team. This model is part of our hands-on, highly interactive Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team training session.

Feel free to check out the programme details here, or ask us for more information using our online form.

Meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to stay up-to-date with all our must-have management tips!


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