Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Highly effective approach to team working, 2 May 2013
This review is from: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series) (Hardcover)
I'm a consultant psychologist who specialises in developing leaders and leadership teams. Lencioni's book is a fantastic launch pad for discussions and interventions with my clients. Turned on their head, the 5 Dysfunctions become the 5 Fundamentals for a high performing team. These make intuitive sense and they're fairly well-supported in the pre-existing literature - one example being "The Wisdom of Teams", which I believe pre-dates Lencioni's book and talks a lot about the need for trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and a focus on results (although tending to use the word "performance") - the same 5 Fundamentals. That said, Lencioni is far easier to read, far more accessible to the everyday reader.

In my work, I combine the lessons from "The Five Dysfunctions..." book with those from "The Five Temptations of a CEO" - which is also a quick, easy and worthwhile read. It's basically the same model, told from different perspectives, and I present the temptations as the things a leader (or even team member) can be understandably tempted to do that are likely to stir up the dysfunctions in their team.

Why not 5 stars? Two reasons.

Firstly, Lencioni's tendency to bring his own religious views into his writing, which can leave some readers feeling overly preached to - this is compounded by the style in general, which is likely to appeal most to an American audience.

Secondly, the evidence base: the psychological literature on the role of conflict in team performance suggests it's more complex than Lencioni's model would have us believe. There are similar issues with trust as the foundation fundamental. Lencioni focuses on "vulnerability based trust" which appeals to many team building facilitators or "touchy feely" types, but is an overly simplistic perspective on trust. Trust is a critical factor, for sure, but I find many intelligent, task-driven teams need a fuller description of trust, based on the psychological research, to be convinced of the need for this fundamental in their team. Otherwise, they become distracted by the idea that they're going to need to share their deepest darkest fears with each other.

Could Lencioni have addressed those nuances and still delivered a book that's as readable and lessons as memorable? Perhaps. But, frankly, the book's done rather well as it is: if it ain't broke, why fix it?
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