Leadership Book Presentation

The Five Dysfunctions

of aTeam A L E A D E R S H I P FA B L E

Patrick Lencioni

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Also by Patrick Lencioni

Leadership Fables

The Five Temptations of a CEO

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

Death by Meeting

Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars

Field Guide

Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

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The Five Dysfunctions

of aTeam A L E A D E R S H I P FA B L E

Patrick Lencioni

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Copyright © 2002 by Patrick Lencioni.

Published by Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741 www.josseybass.com

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978-750-8400, fax 978-646-8600, or on the Web at www.copyright.com. Requests to the publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, 201-748-6011, fax 201-748-6008, or online at http://www.wiley.com/go/permissions.

Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written sales materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lencioni, Patrick, 1965–

The five dysfunctions of a team : a leadership fable / Patrick Lencioni. p. cm.

ISBN 0-7879-6075-6 1. Teams in the workplace. I. Title.

HD66 .L456 2002 658.4’036—dc21 2001008099

Printed in the United States of America FIRST EDITION

HB Printing 20 19 18 17 16

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v

Introduction vii

The Fable 1 Luck 3

Part One: Underachievement 5

Part Two: Lighting the Fire 27

Part Three: Heavy Lifting 115

Part Four: Traction 171

The Model 185 An Overview of the Model 187

Team Assessment 191

Understanding and Overcoming

the Five Dysfunctions 195

A Note About Time: Kathryn’s Methods 221

A Special Tribute to Teamwork 223

Acknowledgments 225

About the Author 229

CONTENTS

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To Dad, for teaching me the value of work. And to Mom, for encouraging me to write.

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INTRODUCTION

Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork

that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both be-

cause it is so powerful and so rare.

A friend of mine, the founder of a company that grew

to a billion dollars in annual revenue, best expressed the

power of teamwork when he once told me, “If you could

get all the people in an organization rowing in the same di-

rection, you could dominate any industry, in any market,

against any competition, at any time.”

Whenever I repeat that adage to a group of leaders, they

immediately nod their heads, but in a desperate sort of way.

They seem to grasp the truth of it while simultaneously sur-

rendering to the impossibility of actually making it happen.

And that is where the rarity of teamwork comes into

play. For all the attention that it has received over the years

from scholars, coaches, teachers, and the media, teamwork

is as elusive as it has ever been within most organizations.

The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of

imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.

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Introduction

But that is not to say that teamwork is doomed. Far

from it. In fact, building a strong team is both possible and

remarkably simple. But it is painfully difficult.

That’s right. Like so many other aspects of life, team-

work comes down to mastering a set of behaviors that are

at once theoretically uncomplicated, but extremely difficult

to put into practice day after day. Success comes only for

those groups that overcome the all-too-human behavioral

tendencies that corrupt teams and breed dysfunctional pol-

itics within them.

As it turns out, these principles apply to more than just

teamwork. In fact, I stumbled upon them somewhat by ac-

cident in my pursuit of a theory about leadership.

A few years ago I wrote my first book, The Five Temp-

tations of a CEO, about the behavioral pitfalls that plague

leaders. In the course of working with my clients, I began

to notice that some of them were “misusing” my theories in

an effort to assess and improve the performance of their

leadership teams—and with success!

And so it became apparent to me that the five tempta-

tions applied not only to individual leaders but, with a few

modifications, to groups as well. And not just within cor-

porations. Clergy, coaches, teachers, and others found that

these principles applied in their worlds as much as they did

in the executive suite of a multinational company. And that

is how this book came to be.

Like my other books, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

begins with a story written in the context of a realistic but

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Introduction

fictional organization. I have found that this allows read-

ers to learn more effectively by losing themselves in a story

and by being able to relate to the characters. It also helps

them understand how these principles can be applied in a

nontheoretical, real-world environment, where the pace of

work and the volume of daily distractions make even the

simplest of tasks seem arduous.

In order to help you apply the material in your own or-

ganization, a brief section following the story outlines the

five dysfunctions in detail. That section also includes a team

assessment and suggested tools for overcoming the issues

that might be plaguing your team.

Finally, although this book is based on my work with

CEOs and their executive teams, its theories are applica-

ble for anyone interested in teamwork, whether you lead a

small department within a company or are simply a mem-

ber of a team that could use some improvement. Whatever

the case may be, I sincerely hope it helps your team over-

come its particular dysfunctions so that it can achieve more

than individuals could ever imagine doing alone. That, after

all, is the real power of teamwork.

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The Fable

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LUCK

Only one person thought Kathryn was the right choice to be-come CEO of DecisionTech, Inc. Luckily for her, that per-son was the Chairman of the board. And so, less than a month after the previous chief ex-

ecutive had been removed, Kathryn Petersen took the reins

of a company that just two years earlier had been one of

the most talked-about, well-funded, and promising start-up

companies in the recent history of the Silicon Valley. She

could not have known just how far from grace the com-

pany had fallen in such a short period of time, and what

the next few months had in store for her.

3

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PART ONE

Under- achievement

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BACKSTORY

DecisionTech was located in Half Moon Bay, a foggy, coastalfarming town just over the hills from the San Francisco Bay.It was not technically part of the Silicon Valley, but the Val- ley is not so much a geographical entity as a cultural one.

And DecisionTech certainly fit within that world.

It had the most experienced—and expensive—executive

team imaginable, a seemingly indestructible business plan,

and more top-tier investors than any young company could

hope for. Even the most cautious venture firms were lining

up to invest, and talented engineers were submitting their

resumés before the company had leased an office.

But that was almost two years earlier, which is a life-

time for a technology start-up. After its first few euphoric

months of existence, the company began experiencing a

series of ongoing disappointments. Critical deadlines

started to slip. A few key employees below the executive

level unexpectedly left the company. Morale deteriorated

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

gradually. All of this in spite of the considerable advantages

that DecisionTech had amassed for itself.

On the two-year anniversary of the firm’s founding, the

board unanimously agreed to “ask” Jeff Shanley, the com-

pany’s thirty-seven-year-old CEO and cofounder, to step

down. He was offered the job of heading business devel-

opment, and to the surprise of his colleagues, he accepted

the demotion, not wanting to walk away from a potentially

huge payout should the company eventually go public.

And even in the difficult economic climate of the Valley,

the company had every reason to go public.

None of DecisionTech’s 150 employees were shocked

by Jeff’s removal. While most of them seemed to like him

well enough personally, they couldn’t deny that under his

leadership the atmosphere within the company had become

increasingly troubling. Backstabbing among the executives

had become an art. There was no sense of unity or cama-

raderie on the team, which translated into a muted level of

commitment. Everything seemed to take too long to get

done, and even then it never felt right.

Some boards might have been more patient with a

stumbling executive team. DecisionTech’s was not. There

was just too much at stake—and too high a profile—to

watch the company waste away because of politics. Deci-

sionTech had already developed a reputation within the

Valley for being one of the most political and unpleasant

places to work, and the board couldn’t tolerate that kind

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Backstory

of press, especially when the future had looked so promis-

ing just a couple of years earlier.

Someone had to be accountable for the mess, and Jeff

was the man at the top. Everyone seemed relieved when

the board announced the decision to remove him.

Until three weeks later, when Kathryn was hired.

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KATHRYN

The executives couldn’t agree on which of Kathryn’s fea-

tures presented the biggest problem. There were so many.

First, she was old. Ancient, at least by Silicon Valley stan-

dards. Kathryn was fifty-seven.

More important, she had no real high-tech experience

other than serving as a board member of Trinity Systems,

a large technology company in San Francisco. Most of her

career had been spent in operational roles with decidedly

low-tech companies, the most notable of which was an au-

tomobile manufacturer.

But more than her age or experience, Kathryn just didn’t

seem to fit the DecisionTech culture.

She had started her career in the military, then married

a teacher and basketball coach at a local high school. After

raising three boys, she taught seventh grade for a few years

until she discovered her affinity for business.

At the age of thirty-seven, Kathryn enrolled in a three-

year business school night program, which she completed

a semester early at Cal State Hayward, which was not ex-

10

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Kathryn

actly Harvard or Stanford. She then spent the next fifteen

years in and around manufacturing, until her retirement at

the age of fifty-four.

The fact that Kathryn was a woman was never an issue

for the executive team; two of them were women them-

selves. With much of their collective experience coming

from the somewhat progressive world of high tech, most

had worked for women at some time during their careers.

But even if her gender had been a problem for anyone on

the team, it would have been dwarfed by her glaring cul-

tural mismatch.

There was just no mistaking the fact that, on paper,

Kathryn was an old school, blue-collarish executive. That

presented a stark contrast to the DecisionTech executives

and middle managers, most of whom had little experience

working outside of the Valley. Some of them even liked to

brag that they hadn’t worn a suit—outside of a wedding—

since graduating from college.

It was no surprise that after first reading her resumé,

board members questioned the Chairman’s sanity when

he suggested they hire Kathryn. But he eventually wore

them down.

For one, the board believed their Chairman when he

flat out assured them that Kathryn would succeed. Second,

he had been known to have extremely good instincts about

people, notwithstanding the problem with Jeff. He certainly

wouldn’t make two mistakes in a row, they reasoned.

But perhaps most important of all (though no one would

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

admit it), DecisionTech was in a desperate situation. The

Chairman insisted that there weren’t too many capable ex-

ecutives willing to take on such a messy job given the cur-

rent state of affairs at the scarred company. “We should

consider ourselves lucky to have such a capable leader as

Kathryn available,” he successfully argued.

Whether or not that was true, the Chairman was deter-

mined to hire someone he knew and could trust. When

he called Kathryn to tell her about the job, he certainly could

not have known that he would be regretting the decision

just a few weeks later.

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RATIONALE

No one was more surprised about the offer than Kathryn. Al-though she had known the Chairman for many years on apersonal level (Kathryn had actually first met him when her husband coached his oldest son in high school), she could

not have imagined that he thought so highly of her as an

executive.

Most of their relationship had been social, centering

around family, school, and local athletics. Kathryn assumed

that the Chairman had little idea about her life outside her

role as a mother and coach’s wife.

In fact, the Chairman had followed Kathryn’s career

with interest over the years, amazed at how successful she

had become with such relatively modest training. In less

than five years, she had become chief operating officer of

the Bay Area’s only automobile manufacturing plant, a U.S.-

Japanese joint venture. She held that job for the better part

of a decade and made the plant one of the most success-

ful cooperative enterprises in the country. And while the

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Chairman knew little about the car industry, he knew one

thing about Kathryn that convinced him she was perfect to

fix the problems at DecisionTech.

She had an amazing gift for building teams.

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GRUMBLINGS

If the executives at DecisionTech had any doubts aboutKathryn when her hiring was first announced—and theydid—they were even more concerned after their new lead- er’s first two weeks on the job.

It wasn’t that Kathryn did anything controversial or mis-

placed. It was that she did almost nothing at all.

Aside from a brief reception on her first day and sub-

sequent interviews with each of her direct reports, Kathryn

spent almost all of her time walking the halls, chatting with

staff members, and silently observing as many meetings as

she could find time to attend. And perhaps most contro-

versial of all, she actually asked Jeff Shanley to continue

leading the weekly executive staff meetings, where she just

listened and took notes.

The only real action that Kathryn took during those first

weeks was to announce a series of two-day executive re-

treats in the Napa Valley to be held over the course of the

next few months. As though she needed to give them any

15

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

more ammunition, none of her reports could believe she

had the gall to take them out of the office for so many days

when there was so much real work to be done.

And to make matters worse, when someone suggested

a specific topic for discussion during the first retreat, Kathryn

refused. She had her own agenda already set.

Even the Chairman was surprised, and a bit unnerved,

about the reports of Kathryn’s early performance. He came

to the conclusion that if she didn’t work out, he should

probably leave along with her. That was beginning to feel

like the most probable outcome.

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OBSERVATIONS

After her first two weeks observing the problems at Deci-sionTech, Kathryn had more than a few moments when shewondered if she should have taken the job. But she knew that there was little chance that she would have turned it

down. Retirement had made her antsy, and nothing excited

her more than a challenge.

While there was no doubt that DecisionTech would be

a challenge, something seemed different about this one.

Though she had never really feared failure, Kathryn could

not deny that the prospect of letting the Chairman down

spooked her a little. To tarnish her reputation so late in her

career, and among friends and family, was enough to worry

even the most secure of people. And Kathryn was certainly

secure with herself.

After surviving a stint in the military, raising her boys,

watching countless buzzer-beating basketball games, and

standing up to union bosses, Kathryn decided she was not

about to be intimidated by a bunch of harmless yuppies

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

whose greatest hardships in life so far had been fighting

off the first signs of a receding hairline or an expanding

waistline. She believed that as long as the board would give

her enough time and leeway, she would be able to turn De-

cisionTech around.

And Kathryn’s lack of in-depth software experience did

not concern her. In fact, she felt certain that it provided her

with an advantage. Most of her staff seemed almost para-

lyzed by their own knowledge of technology, as though

they themselves would have to do the programming and

product design to make the company fly.

Kathryn knew that Jack Welch didn’t have to be an ex-

pert on toaster manufacturing to make General Electric a

success and that Herb Kelleher didn’t have to spend a life-

time flying airplanes to build Southwest Airlines. Despite

what her limited technical background might have indi-

cated, Kathryn felt that her understanding of enterprise soft-

ware and technology was more than sufficient for her to

lead DecisionTech out of the mess it was in.

What she could not have known when she accepted

the job, however, was just how dysfunctional her execu-

tive team was, and how they would challenge her in ways

that no one before had ever done.

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THE STAFF

Employees referred to the DecisionTech executives as TheStaff. No one referred to them as a team, which Kathryn de-cided was no accident. In spite of their undeniable intelligence and impres-

sive educational backgrounds, The Staff’s behavior dur-

ing meetings was worse than anything she had seen in the

automotive world. Though open hostility was never really

apparent and no one ever seemed to argue, an underlying

tension was undeniable. As a result, decisions never seemed

to get made; discussions were slow and uninteresting, with

few real exchanges; and everyone seemed to be desperately

waiting for each meeting to end.

And yet, as bad as the team was, they all seemed like

well-intentioned and reasonable people when considered

individually. With just a few exceptions.

JEFF—FORMER CEO, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Essentially a generalist who loved networking within the

Valley, Jeff Shanley had raised a considerable amount of the

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

company’s initial money and attracted many of the current

executives. No one could deny his prowess when it came

to venture capital or recruiting. But management was an-

other story.

Jeff ran staff meetings as though he were a student body

president reading from a textbook on protocol. He always

published an agenda before each meeting, and then dis-

tributed detailed minutes afterward. And unlike most other

high-tech companies, his meetings usually began on time

and always concluded exactly when they were scheduled

to end. The fact that nothing ever seemed to get done dur-

ing those meetings didn’t appear to bother him.

In spite of his demotion, Jeff maintained his seat on

the board of directors. Kathryn initially suspected that he

might resent her for taking his job, but she soon came to

the conclusion that Jeff was relieved to be, well, relieved

of his management responsibilities. Kathryn had little con-

cern about his presence on the board, or on her manage-

ment team. She suspected that his heart was in the right

place.

MIKEY—MARKETING

Marketing would be a critical function at DecisionTech, and

the board had been ecstatic to get someone as sought after

as Michele Bebe. Mikey, as she liked to be called, was well

known throughout the Valley as a brand-building genius.

Which made it all the more astonishing that she lacked a

few key social graces.

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The Staff

During meetings, she talked more than the others, oc-

casionally coming up with a brilliant idea, but more often

complaining about how the other companies she had

worked for did everything better than DecisionTech. It was

almost as though she were a spectator or, better yet, a vic-

tim of circumstance, at her new company. Though she nev-

er argued outright with any of her peers, she was known

to roll her eyes in apparent disgust when one of them dis-

agreed with anything she had to say about marketing.

Kathryn decided that Mikey was unaware of how she came

across to others. No one would purposefully act that way,

she reasoned.

So in spite of her talent and accomplishments, it was no

surprise to Kathryn that Mikey was the least popular among

the rest of the staff. With the possible exception of Martin.

MARTIN—CHIEF TECHNOLOGIST

A founder of the company, Martin Gilmore was the closest

thing that DecisionTech had to an inventor. He had de-

signed the original specs for the company’s flagship prod-

uct, and although others had done much of the actual

product development, the executives often said that Mar-

tin was the keeper of the crown jewels. That analogy was

due at least in part to the fact that Martin was British.

Martin considered himself to know as much about tech-

nology as anyone else in the Valley, which was probably

true. With advanced degrees from Berkeley and Cam-

bridge, and a track record of success as a chief architect at

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

two other technology companies, he was seen as Decision-

Tech’s key competitive advantage, at least when it came to

human capital.

Unlike Mikey, Martin didn’t disrupt staff meetings. In

fact, he rarely participated. It wasn’t that he refused to at-

tend those meetings (even Jeff wouldn’t allow such a bla-

tant act of revolt); it was just that he always had his laptop

open, and he seemed to be constantly checking e-mail or

doing something similarly engrossing. Only when some-

one made a factually incorrect statement could Martin be

counted on to offer a comment, and usually a sarcastic one

at that.

At first, this was tolerable, maybe even amusing, to Mar-

tin’s peers, who seemed in awe of his intellect. But it began

to wear on the staff over time. And with the company’s re-

cent struggles, it had become an increasingly grating source

of frustration for many of them.

JR—SALES

In order to avoid confusing him with Jeff Shanley, everyone

called the head of sales JR. His real name was Jeff Rawlins,

but he seemed to enjoy the new moniker. JR was an ex-

perienced salesperson and a little older than the others—

mid-forties. He was usually tan, never rude, and always

agreed to do whatever the staff asked of him.

Unfortunately, JR rarely followed through. In those cases

when he came clean and acknowledged having made a

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The Staff

commitment that went unfulfilled, he apologized profusely

to whomever he had let down.

In spite of what the staff called JR’s flakiness, he was

able to maintain a measure of respect from his peers be-

cause of his track record. Before coming to DecisionTech,

he had never missed a quarterly revenue number in his en-

tire career in sales.

CARLOS—CUSTOMER SUPPORT

Though DecisionTech had relatively few customers, the

board felt strongly that the company would need to invest

early in customer service in order to prepare for growth.

Carlos Amador had worked with Mikey at two previous

companies, and she introduced him to the firm. Which was

ironic because the two of them couldn’t have been more

different.

Carlos spoke very little, but whenever he did, he had

something important and constructive to say. He listened

intently during meetings, worked long hours with no

complaint, and downplayed his prior accomplishments

whenever someone asked about them. If there was a low-

maintenance member of the staff, and a trustworthy one,

it was Carlos.

Kathryn was thankful not to have to worry about at least

one of her new direct reports, although she was somewhat

troubled that his specific role had not yet fully developed.

The fact that he willingly took on responsibility for product

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

quality and any other unattractive duties that fell through

the gaps allowed her to focus on more pressing concerns.

JAN—CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

The role of the chief financial officer had been a critical

one at DecisionTech and would continue to be as long as

the company intended to go public. Jan Mersino knew

what she was getting into when she joined the company,

and she had played a key role supporting Jeff as he raised

impressive amounts of money from venture capitalists and

other investors.

Jan was a stickler for detail, took pride in her knowl-

edge of the industry, and treated the company’s money

as though it were her own. While the board had given Jeff

and the staff virtual free rein when it came to expenditures,

they did so only because they knew that Jan would not let

things get out of control.

NICK—CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

The final member of the executive staff was the most im-

pressive on paper. Nick Farrell had been vice president

of field operations for a large computer manufacturer in the

Midwest, and had moved his family to California to take

the DecisionTech job. Unfortunately for him, he had the

most ill-defined role of anyone on the team.

Nick was officially the chief operating officer of the

company, but that was only because he had demanded

the COO title as a condition of accepting the job. Jeff

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The Staff

and the board gave it to him because they believed he

would earn it within the year anyway if he performed ac-

cording to his billing. More importantly, they had become

addicted to hiring star executives, and losing Nick would

have hurt their winning percentage.

Of all the members of the executive staff, Nick had been

most directly impacted by the company’s sputtering start.

Given Jeff’s limitations as a manager, Nick had been hired

to spearhead DecisionTech’s growth, which included build-

ing an operational infrastructure, opening new offices

around the world, and leading the firm’s acquisition and in-

tegration efforts. Most of his responsibilities were currently

on hold, giving Nick little meaningful day-to-day work.

As frustrated as he was, Nick didn’t complain openly. To

the contrary, he worked hard to build relationships, though

sometimes shallow ones, with each of his colleagues, whom

he had quietly deemed to be inferior to him. And though he

certainly never said so to any of his peers, Nick felt he was

the only executive in the company qualified to be CEO. But

that would become obvious soon enough.

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PART TWO

Lighting the Fire

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FIRST TEST

It looked like just another of the many standard e-mail mes-sages that Kathryn was receiving on a regular basis now thatshe had been on the job for awhile. The subject header— “Customer Opportunity Next Week”—seemed innocuous

enough, even positive, especially considering that it came

from her acerbic chief engineer, Martin. And the note itself

was short. The most damaging ones usually are.

That it was not addressed to anyone in particular, but

was sent to the entire executive staff, only belied its in-

cendiary potential:

Just received a call from ASA Manufacturing. They’re

interested in reviewing our product to consider a purchase

next quarter. JR and I will be going down to meet with

them next week. Could be a big opportunity. We’ll be

back early Tuesday.

The fact that Martin avoided any mention of the sched-

uling conflict with the executive retreat only made the

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30

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

situation worse for Kathryn. He had not asked permission

to miss the first day and a half of the off-site retreat, either

because he didn’t feel the need to do so or because he

wanted to avoid having to deal with the issue altogether.

Kathryn decided it didn’t matter which was true.

She resisted the temptation to avoid a confrontation

with Martin by firing off an e-mail reply. Kathryn decided

that this would be her first moment of truth as a CEO, and

moments of truth, she knew, are best handled face-to-face.

Kathryn found Martin sitting in his corner office read-

ing e-mail. His back was turned toward the open door, but

she didn’t bother knocking.

“Excuse me, Martin.” Kathryn waited for Martin to turn

around, which he took his time doing. “I just saw your

e-mail about ASA.”

He nodded, and she went on. “That’s great news. But

we’ll have to push the appointment back a few days be-

cause of the off-site.”

Martin was silent for an awkward moment, then re-

sponded without emotion but with his thickest English ac-

cent. “I don’t think you understand. This is a potential sales

opportunity. You don’t just reschedule . . .”

Kathryn interrupted and responded matter-of-factly. “No,

I do understand. But I think they’ll still be there next week.”

Not used to being countered directly, Martin became

just slightly agitated. “If your concern is about this Napa off-

site thing, then I think we may have our priorities confused.

We need to be out there selling.”

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31

First Test

Kathryn took a breath and smiled to conceal her frus-

trations. “First of all, I only have one priority at this point:

we need to get our act together as a team, or we’re not

going to be selling anything.”

Martin said nothing.

After an awkward five seconds, Kathryn finished the

conversation. “So, I’ll be seeing you in Napa next week.”

She turned to leave, then turned back to face Martin again.

“Oh, and if you need any help rescheduling the ASA meet-

ing, let me know. I know Bob Tennyson, the CEO down

there. He sits on the Trinity board with me, and he owes

me a favor.”

With that, she left the room. Though Martin decided

not to push any further for the moment, he was not through

fighting.

13Lencioni/First Test 2/10/02 3:34 PM Page 31

END RUN

Jeff stopped by Kathryn’s office the next morning and askedher to lunch. She had planned to run an errand during thattime, but happily shifted her schedule to accommodate one of her direct reports. The oldest Mexican restaurant in Half

Moon Bay was as good a spot as any for a difficult con-

versation, he thought, because mostly locals ate there.

Before Jeff could broach the topic he wanted to dis-

cuss, Kathryn took care of some business of her own. “Jeff,

I want to thank you for leading the executive staff meet-

ings these past two weeks. It’s allowed me to sit back and

observe.”

He nodded politely to accept her minor but heartfelt

gratitude.

She continued. “After next week’s off-site, I’ll take over.

But I want you to know that you shouldn’t hold back dur-

ing the meetings. You should participate as fully as any

other staff member.”

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33

End Run

Jeff nodded, “Fine. I don’t think that will be a prob-

lem.” He paused, then worked up the courage to raise the

issue that had provoked the lunch invitation. Straightening

his silverware nervously, he began. “Now that you men-

tion the off-site, I’d like to ask you a question.”

“Go ahead.” Kathryn was almost amused by Jeff’s dis-

comfort. And because she had anticipated a question about

her run-in with Martin, she was calm and confident.

“Well, yesterday, on the way out of the office, I talked

to Martin in the parking lot.” He waited, hoping Kathryn

would jump in and move the conversation forward from

there. She didn’t, so Jeff continued. “Well, he said something

to me about the ASA meeting and the off-site scheduling

problem.”

Again Jeff paused, hoping for his new boss to merci-

fully interrupt. This time she did, but only to prompt him

to continue. “Yes?”

Jeff swallowed. “Well, he believes, and frankly I think

I agree with him, that a customer meeting is more impor-

tant than an internal one. And so, if he and JR missed the

first day or so of the off-site, I think we would be okay.”

Kathryn chose her words carefully. “Jeff, I understand

your opinion, and I’m fine with your disagreeing with me,

especially when you tell me face-to-face.”

Jeff was noticeably relieved, for the moment.

“However, I was hired to make this organization work,

and right now it doesn’t.”

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34

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Jeff looked like he was trying to decide whether to

be humbled or angry, so Kathryn clarified. “I’m not trying

to criticize what you’ve done so far, because it seems to me

that no one cares more about the company than you do.”

His ego now assuaged, Kathryn drove the point home.

“But from a team standpoint, we are completely broken.

And one sales meeting is not going to have a meaningful

impact on our future, at least not until we straighten out

the leadership problems around here.”

Not knowing Kathryn very well, Jeff decided that any

further debate would be fruitless and possibly career-

limiting. He nodded as if to say, Okay, I guess it’s your call.

The two of them then engaged in small talk and ate one of

the fastest lunches in Half Moon Bay history before head-

ing back to the office.

14Lencioni/End Run 2/10/02 3:34 PM Page 34

DRAWING THE LINE

The conversation with Jeff had not fazed Kathryn. She hadcertainly expected some backlash about the Martin inci-dent from her inherited staff. But she didn’t expect it to come from the Chairman.

When he reached her at home that evening, she ini-

tially assumed he was calling to give her support.

“I just got off the phone with Jeff,” he announced in a

friendly tone.

“So, I guess you heard about my head-butt with Martin.”

Kathryn’s humorous and confident attitude pushed the

Chairman into a more serious mood. “Yes, and I’m a little

concerned.”

Kathryn was caught off guard. “You are?”

“Look, Kathryn, you know I don’t want to tell you how

to go about doing this, but maybe you should try to build

a few bridges over there before you start setting any on fire.”

Kathryn let a few moments pass before replying. As

surprised as she was by the Chairman’s concerns, she was

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36

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

remarkably calm and shifted into CEO mode immediately.

“Okay, what I’m about to say is not meant in any way to

be defensive or rude.”

“I know that, Kathryn.”

“Good, because I’m not going to mince my words—not

with you.”

“And I appreciate that.”

“You may not after you hear what I have to say.”

He forced a laugh. “Okay, I’m sitting down.”

“First, don’t think that I’m just randomly setting fires to

get my kicks. I’ve been watching these people carefully for

the past two weeks, and everything I’m doing, and every-

thing I’m about to do, is purposeful and intentional. I didn’t

tweak Martin because I felt like it in the moment.”

“I know, it’s just that . . .”

Kathryn interrupted politely. “Hear me out. This is im-

portant.”

“Okay, go ahead.”

“Now, if you knew how to do what I am trying to do,

you wouldn’t need me. Am I right?”

“You’re right.”

“You see, I honestly appreciate your concern for the

company, and for me, and I know you mean well on both

counts. But based on this call, I’d have to say that your good

intentions are hurting the company more than helping it.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m not understanding you.”

Kathryn went on. “Well, over the past eighteen months,

you’ve been fairly active with Jeff and the rest of the team,

15Lencioni/Drawing 2/10/02 3:35 PM Page 36

37

Drawing the Line

more so than most board chairmen, and you’ve watched

this team spiral further and further into dysfunction and

chaos. And now you’ve asked me to help you pull them

out of it. Isn’t that what you want?”

“Absolutely. That’s exactly what I want.”

“Then I have a single question for you: Are you pre-

pared for the consequences of letting me do this right? Now

don’t answer right away.” She caught him just as the words

were coming out of his mouth. “Think about it for a second.”

She let the question sit there before continuing. “This is

not going to be easy. Or pretty. Not for the company. Not

for the executives. Not for me. And not for you.”

The Chairman remained silent, resisting the temptation

to assure her that he was prepared to do whatever she

needed.

Kathryn interpreted his silence as permission to continue

her pointed lecture. “You’ve probably heard my husband say

that a fractured team is just like a broken arm or leg; fixing

it is always painful, and sometimes you have to rebreak it to

make it heal correctly. And the rebreak hurts a lot more than

the initial break, because you have to do it on purpose.”

After another long pause, the Chairman spoke. “Okay,

Kathryn, I hear you. Do whatever you have to do. I won’t

get in the way.”

Kathryn could tell that he meant it.

Then he asked, “But I do have one final question: How

much of this team are you going to have to rebreak?”

“I should know by the end of the month.”

15Lencioni/Drawing 2/10/02 3:35 PM Page 37

NAPA

Kathryn chose the Napa Valley for the off-site because it wasclose enough to the office to avoid expensive and time-consuming travel, but just far enough to feel out of town. And regardless of how many times people have been there,

it always seems to make them slow down a pace or two.

The hotel where the meeting would take place was a

small inn located in the town of Yountville. Kathryn liked

it because it was reasonably priced during the off-season

and had just one large and comfortable conference room.

It was on the second floor, had its own balcony, and over-

looked acres of vineyards.

The meeting was to start at 9:00 A.M., which meant that

most of the team would have to leave their homes fairly

early in the morning to arrive on time. By 8:45, everyone

had arrived, checked their luggage at the front desk, and

was seated at the conference table. Everyone but Martin,

that is.

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39

Napa

Though no one said anything about him, the way they

were checking their watches suggested they were all won-

dering whether he would be on time. Even Kathryn seemed

a bit nervous.

She didn’t want the first activity of the meeting to be

a reprimand of someone for being late. Then, for a split

second, she felt a flash of panic, wondering what she would

do if he just didn’t show up at all. She couldn’t very well

fire him for not coming to a meeting, could she? Did she

have that kind of political capital with the board? How

valuable is this guy, anyway?

When Martin came through the door at 8:59, Kathryn

breathed an inaudible sigh of relief and chastised herself

for worrying so much. She took comfort in knowing that

she was finally about to begin what she had been waiting

to do for almost a month. And as concerned as she was

about the attitudes of the people sitting around the table,

Kathryn could not deny that moments like this were a big

part of why she loved being a leader.

16Lencioni/Napa 2/10/02 3:35 PM Page 39

THE SPEECH

Martin took the only remaining chair at the end of the con-ference table opposite Kathryn. As soon as he sat down, heremoved his laptop computer from its case and put it on the table in front of him, leaving it closed for the moment.

Determined not to be distracted, Kathryn smiled at her

staff and addressed them calmly and gracefully.

“Good morning, everyone. I’d like to start the day by

saying a few words. And this won’t be the last time I say

them.” No one knew just how serious Kathryn was about

that remark.

“We have a more experienced and talented executive

team than any of our competitors. We have more cash than

they do. Thanks to Martin and his team, we have better

core technology. And we have a more powerful board of

directors. Yet in spite of all that, we are behind two of our

competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth.

Can anyone here tell me why that is?”

Silence.

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41

The Speech

Kathryn continued, still as warmly as when she started.

“After interviewing with every member of our board and

spending time with each of you, and then talking to most

of our employees, it is very clear to me what our prob-

lem is.” She paused before completing the thought. “We

are not functioning as a team. In fact, we are quite dysfunc-

tional.”

A few of the staff members shot glances toward Jeff

to see how he would react. He seemed fine, but Kathryn

picked up on the tension.

“I’m not saying this to call out Jeff, or anyone else, in

particular. It’s just a fact. One that we are going to begin ad-

dressing over these next two days. And, yes, I know how

ridiculous and unbelievable it feels for you to be out of the

office for so many days this month. But by the end of it all,

everyone who is still here will understand why this is so

important.”

That last comment got everyone’s attention. “That’s right.

I want to say right up front that DecisionTech is going to ex-

perience some changes during the next few months, and it

is very possible that some of us here won’t find the new

company to be the kind of place where we want to be. That

isn’t a threat or a dramatic device, and I don’t have anyone

in particular in mind. It’s just a realistic probability, and it’s

nothing to be in denial about. All of us are eminently em-

ployable, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world for any-

one to leave if that is the right thing for the company—and

the team.”

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42

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Kathryn stood and went to the white board, careful not

to come across as arrogant or condescending. “Let me as-

sure those of you who might be wondering about all of this

that everything we are going to be doing is about one thing

only: making this company succeed. That’s all. We’re not

going to be catching each other falling out of trees.”

A few of her staff members chuckled.

“And we certainly won’t be holding hands, singing

songs, or getting naked.”

Even Martin managed a smile while the others laughed

out loud.

“I want to assure you that there is only one reason that

we are here at this off-site, and at the company: to achieve

results. This, in my opinion, is the only true measure of a

team, and it will be the focus of everything we do today

and as long as I’m here. It is my expectation that next year

and the year after that, we will be able to look back on rev-

enue growth, profitability, customer retention, and satisfac-

tion, and if the market is right for it, maybe even an IPO.

But I can promise you that none of that will happen if we

do not address the issues that are preventing us from act-

ing like a team.”

Kathryn paused to let everyone digest the simplicity of

her message, and then continued. “So how do we go about

this? Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that there

are five reasons why teams are dysfunctional.”

She then drew a triangle on the white board and divided

it with four horizontal lines, creating five separate sections.

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43

The Speech

Kathryn then turned back to the group. “Over the course

of the next two days, we are going to be filling in this model

and dealing with each issue one at a time. And you’ll notice

immediately that none of this is rocket science. In fact, it will

seem remarkably simple on paper. The trick is putting it into

practice.”

“Right now I’d like to start with the first dysfunction: ab-

sence of trust.” She turned and wrote the phrase at the bot-

tom of the triangle.

The staff members read the words silently, and most of

them frowned as if to say, Is that all you’ve got?

Kathryn was used to this and continued. “Trust is the

foundation of real teamwork. And so the first dysfunction

is a failure on the part of team members to understand and

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44

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

open up to one another. And if that sounds touchy-feely,

let me explain, because there is nothing soft about it. It is

an absolutely critical part of building a team. In fact, it’s

probably the most critical.”

Some of the people in the room were clearly in need of

an explanation.

“Great teams do not hold back with one another,” she

said. “They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They ad-

mit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns

without fear of reprisal.”

Most of the staff seemed to be accepting the point, but

without a lot of enthusiasm.

Kathryn pushed on. “The fact is, if we don’t trust one

another—and it seems to me that we don’t—then we can-

not be the kind of team that ultimately achieves results.

And so that is where we’re going to focus first.”

17Lencioni/Speech 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 44

PUSHING BACK

The room was silent, until Jan raised her hand.

Kathryn smiled. “I may have been a school teacher once,

but you don’t have to raise your hand to talk. Feel free to

jump in any time.”

Jan nodded and asked her question. “I’m not trying to

be negative or contradictory here, but I’m just wondering

why you don’t think we trust each other. Is it possible that

you just don’t know us very well yet?”

Kathryn paused to consider the question, wanting to

give a thoughtful answer. “Well, my assessment is based on

quite a bit of data, Jan. Specific comments from the board,

employees, even many of you.”

Jan seemed content with the answer, but Kathryn de-

cided to continue. “But I’d have to say that more than any-

thing I’ve been told by others, I see a trust problem here in

the lack of debate that exists during staff meetings and other

interactions among this team. But I don’t want to get ahead

of myself, because that’s a separate part of the model en-

tirely.”

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Nick was not about to let it go. “But that doesn’t always

mean there is an absence of trust, does it?” The question

was more of a statement than anything else. Everyone in

the room, including Martin and Mikey, seemed eager for

Kathryn’s response.

“No, not necessarily, I guess.”

Nick was momentarily pleased that his comment was

deemed to be correct.

Until Kathryn clarified. “Theoretically, if everyone is

completely on the same page and working in lockstep to-

ward the same goals with no sense of confusion, then I

suppose a lack of debate might be a good sign.”

More than one of the staff members began to smile

sheepishly at the description that certainly did not apply to

them. Nick’s satisfaction disappeared.

Kathryn continued to direct her explanation toward

him. “But I’d have to say that every effective team I’ve ever

observed had a substantial level of debate. Even the most

trusting teams mixed it up a lot.” Now she directed a ques-

tion to the rest of the room. “Why do you suppose there is

so little passionate discussion or debate among this group?”

At first no one answered, and Kathryn let them sit in

the uncomfortable silence. Then Mikey mumbled some-

thing under her breath.

“I’m sorry, Mikey. I didn’t hear you.” Kathryn did her

best to conceal her distaste for sarcastic remarks, which she

had developed teaching seventh graders.

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47

Pushing Back

Mikey clarified, louder now. “There isn’t enough time.

I think we’re all too busy to have lengthy debates about

minor issues. We’re drowning in work as it is.”

Kathryn sensed that the others might not agree with

Mikey, but she wondered if anyone dared challenge her.

She was about to do so herself, when Jeff offered tenta-

tively, “I’m not sure I’m with you on that one, Mikey. I don’t

think we lack the time to argue. I think we’re just not com-

fortable challenging each other. And I’m not sure why.”

Mikey responded quickly, if not sharply. “Maybe be-

cause our meetings are always too structured and boring.”

The mother in Kathryn wanted to step in and protect

Jeff, partly to reward him for having stood up to Mikey. But

she decided to let things go.

After a pause, Carlos chimed in gently, but without di-

recting his comments at Mikey, as though the entire group

had made the remark. “Now wait a minute, everyone. I

agree that meetings have been pretty dull and that the

agenda is usually a little too full. But I think we all could

have challenged each other more. We certainly don’t all

agree on everything.”

Nick spoke up. “I don’t think we agree on anything.”

They all laughed—except Martin, who had opened his

laptop and turned it on.

Kathryn joined the livening conversation. “So you

don’t agree on most things, and yet you don’t seem will-

ing to admit that you have concerns. Now, I’m no Ph.D.

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48

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

in psychology, but that’s a trust issue if I’ve ever heard

one.” A few of the heads in the room actually nodded in

agreement with Kathryn, something she appreciated like

a starving person given a few morsels of bread.

And then the typing sound began. Martin, now com-

pletely checked out of the conversation, was banging away

at his keyboard like, well, like a computer programmer.

Distracted by the sound, everyone in the room glanced at

Martin for a nanosecond. And that was enough to kill what-

ever momentum the conversation had generated.

Kathryn had both relished this moment and dreaded it

from the first staff meeting she had observed. And as much

as she wanted to avoid another run-in with Martin, espe-

cially so early in the day, she would not let the opportu-

nity pass her by.

18Lencioni/Pushing 2/10/02 3:36 PM Page 48

ENTERING THE DANGER

The tension in the room began to mount as Kathryn watchedMartin type away at the other end of the table. No onereally thought she would say anything. But they didn’t know Kathryn very well.

“Excuse me, Martin.”

Martin finished typing and then looked up to acknowl-

edge his boss.

“Are you working on something?” Kathryn’s question

was sincere, without even a hint of sarcasm.

The room froze, waiting anxiously for the answer to

the question they had been wanting to ask for the past two

years.

Martin seemed as though he wasn’t going to respond at

all, then said, “I’m taking notes, actually,” and continued

typing.

Kathryn remained calm and continued to speak in a

measured tone. “I think this is a good time to talk about

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50

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

ground rules for the off-site and for our meetings going

forward.”

Martin looked up from his computer, and Kathryn con-

tinued, directing her comments to the entire group. “I don’t

have a lot of rules when it comes to meetings. But there are

a few that I’m a stickler about.”

Everyone waited for her to begin.

“Basically, I want you all to do two things: be present

and participate. That means everyone needs to be fully en-

gaged in whatever we’re talking about.”

Even Martin knew when to pull back a little. He asked

a question, but in a slightly conciliatory tone that the group

was not accustomed to hearing from their chief scientist.

“What about when the conversation is not relevant to every-

one? Sometimes it seems that we talk about issues that

would best be handled off-line. One-on-one.”

“That’s a good point.” Kathryn was reeling Martin in

now. “If there is ever a time when that happens, when we

think that we’re wasting the group’s time by dealing with

issues that should be dealt with outside the meeting, then

everyone here should feel free to speak up.”

Martin seemed pleased that she had agreed with him.

Kathryn went on. “But for everything else, I want every-

one fully engaged. And while I understand that some peo-

ple prefer to use a computer rather than a notebook, like

you, Martin, I’ve found that it’s just too distracting. It’s easy

to imagine the person sitting there checking e-mail or

working on something else.”

19Lencioni/Danger 2/10/02 3:37 PM Page 50

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