On Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions

I was surprised when this book was assigned for EDLP 700, as I had already read the book from the summer of 2009. Our superintendent had heard Lencioni at a conference she attended, and brought the book back to work with her. Our leadership team read the book for a summer retreat activity. Despite trials to work through the materials that come with the book, we abandoned the process, and the book has gained dust on my shelf.

Re-reading it has been interesting, and I think in a way, telling. Part of the experience of seeing more lucidly now is continued experience I’ve had working on a small team that meets regularly. Our group leader has been taking us through several steps, which I now recognize are part of the 5 Dysfunctions process (starting with sharing personal histories, and including an assessment of our personality type using Myers-Briggs). I was skeptical the first time I read the book that anyone could just tidy-up dysfunction as well as Katherine in the book. It’s not a real case study, after all, but a fictional scenario, where things just fall into place as some model is introduced.

Yet, I am less skeptical now. I’ve been able now to pinpoint personalities from the scenario into my daily work life. I can recognize mistakes, like putting ego and self above a concern for the entire team. And in our own organization, the issue of trust among team members is still a critical issue towards overcoming some dysfunction.

I am now wondering how this process and the book will be used in class. I am guessing we will be doing team building among our cohort in an effort to get to know one another better. It will be odd with our initial unfamiliarity with one another. At the same time, a process that puts into use our newfound knowledge of our MBTIs should be helpful.

One concept in the book which I find difficult to scale in a school setting is that of teams. In our central office, a “first team” was defined, and principals were encouraged to bring the 5 Dysfunctions protocol to their schools, where in some cases, the process started. But I think it eventually fizzled county-wide. With big teams of folks who sometimes rarely mingle or interact (say, an art teacher with a social studies teacher), the whole concept of team building is difficult. But I think finding ways to get folks interacting and collaborating would be a successful enterprise. I’ll be interested what the school principals from our cohort think about the team-building aspect discussed in the book (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team).


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