I read “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Lencioni. It is very readable, even entertaining… and it takes about 45 minutes to read through the “good parts”. (Like with all business books, the author knows how to use stories to spin 1-2 pages of content into a 150-page book!) Here’s my take.
- Absence of Trust – This stems from unwillingness to be vulnerable, not being genuinely open about their mistakes and weaknesses.
- Fear of Conflict – Teams that lack trust (from #1 above!) are incapable of engaging in an unfiltered, open and passionate debate of ideas.
- Lack of Commitment – Since these teams haven’t aired their opinions in a debate, they never buy in and commit to decisions.
- Avoidance of Accountability – Counterproductive actions and behaviors aren’t called out by other team members.
- Inattention to Results – Individual needs (ego, recognition, career) takes priority.
- Trust one another.
- Engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
- Commit to decisions and plans of action.
- Hold one another accountable for delivering.
- Focus on the achievement of collective results.
Here’s the questions I’m asking myself after reading this book… What is our team goal? We’re running hard and running well – but to what destination?
And another thought came to me – scrum is what we do in the vacuum of leadership.Because we often get spotty/late feedback from the business – “this isn’t what I wanted at all!” “We need this done by Tuesday!” – we plan out our work, one or two weeks at a time, based on our best guess of what we should be doing. But churning out work two weeks at a go doesn’t guarantee forward progress, and it can help enable a false feeling of security – that we’re making progress towards a definite collective goal, when in fact all the team/department/business is doing is treading water. This especially becomes apparent when the team does not have one major multi-month project they can focus on collectively, but when everyone is still splitting up into 1-person “teams” following the DSU. Scrum and agile cannot make up for the lack of a specific, definite overarching goal and a definable metric, set by executives and followed up on regularly by everyone down the chain.
- Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react, rather than on what they really think.
- Disagree and commit in meetings – consensus is horrible!
- The basic gist of the book is that consensus is elusive. Peer to peer dynamics are difficult – you feel you’re sticking your nose into other people’s business. There’s no buy-in – people aren’t going to hold each other accountable if they haven’t bought into the plan – “I never agreed to that!”
- We need to have a specific goal – something like “18 new customers by 12/31″. A goal could be a low bug count by X date, or having the Strat Cat project done in five weeks, etc.
- The lead protagonist (Kathryn) is quite the Atlas Shrugged hero-character. “I’m pretty intolerant of behavior that demonstrates an absence of trust, or a focus on individual ego. I will be encouraging conflict, driving for clear commitments, and holding each other accountable.”
- I liked her handling of a disagreement with one of her team, when he tried to show her up in a meeting – “Would you rather have this conversation here, or one on one?”