The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Executive Agenda Executive Agenda July 24, 2019

It was difficult to decide what to write about in our very first blog post. So after developing various categories for our ideas, we selected a topic that was popular on our previous website.

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni examines why effective teams are so rare, and he provides specific recommendations for eliminating barriers that lead to dysfunctional teams. The info graphic here summarizes Lencioni's work in a diagram that outlines the causes of team dysfunctionality and what can be done to overcome each one.

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Whatever your adaptability assessment score happens to be, as busy executives, we know it’s easy to fall back on the things that have made us successful in the past. Or, focus almost entirely on the things that drive day-to-day business performance. True adaptability requires us to challenge our deeply-held beliefs on things. And sometimes these are the very things that made us successful in the first place.

Why is adaptability so easy to define, difficult to do, yet so important? I’ve read a lot about this subject, but one piece from the Harvard Business Review wraps it up nicely for us.

Our brains don’t like adaption. So those who are more adaptable are likely to have done some pretty difficult thinking. Adapting in business is crucial, but when the “what’s in it for me” is more important even than that, our brains are great at coming up with very rational ways to resist adaption.

It makes sense. Old habits die hard – especially ones that have contributed to our previous success. So instead our brains try and find “evidence” that justifies keeping questionable beliefs intact. But that is what adaptability is all about. It’s developing the confidence and mental agility to adapt even your most strongly-held beliefs and assumptions if you find they might be wrong.

Here are six things you can begin doing today to give yourself a competitive advantage by increasing your adaptability in the workplace.

1) ALTERNATIVES: Require any change proposal to have several suggested alternatives as a matter of course – this encourages cognitive and organizational flexibility.

2) DISRUPTERS: Ask questions that encourage your team to think about what the disrupters on the edges of your business are doing – not just what your competitors are up to.

3) ASSUMPTIONS: Get into the habit of thinking and asking questions about what you think you “know.” Are there some firmly and widely-held beliefs that you need to have the courage to challenge?

4) PLANS: Spend quality time and energy thinking and reflecting on plans that take your business beyond what you know. What are the megatrends? What are you under-exploiting? What can you not know?

5) THREATS: Treat threats or risks to your business as an important part of your planning process and address them with an initiative. Do you have people with time and a clear responsibility for exploring areas of potential market exposure? Do you measure future threats with the same passion as you measure yesterday’s performance?

6) SPEED: Increase your “clock-speed” – make annual planning an easier, faster process. Consider how to transform any process you do on a monthly or annual basis into a “business as usual” activity that takes minutes not hours.


Individual Adaptability Assessment Scoring Results

10-20           Time to retire or get out of the way

21-30           You need help; get a coach or mentor

31-40           You are on your way to being adaptable

41-45           You are change agent material and should be mentoring others


About the Author

Nancy Kane has been an Executive Agenda Group Chair for nearly five years and serves four EA groups. She owns her own consulting business offering strategic business planning, marketing development, research, public relations, lead generation and sales support. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Alverno College and lives in Menomonee Falls, WI. Her AQ is as high as it gets.

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