Taking the Myth Out of Team-Building

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni takes an unusual approach for a management book: It’s written as a fable, not the usual “how-to” with case histories. Thus, it’s highly engaging and reads like a piece of bedside fiction that you don’t want to put down until you know who did the murder.

But make no mistake: There are no murders, and the slender volume is a highly useful book for any manager who has ever had to deal with trouble on his or her team. While Kathryn, the fictional leader hired to turn around a mythical high-tech company, displays wisdom, patience, and a knack for coaching that could only exist in fiction or with the New England Patriots, she is nevertheless a character you can’t help but wish you could hire in the flesh. Following her as she assesses a dysfunctional executive team at the tech company, one can easily identify parallels in any organization.

While some of the techniques used in the book might make real people somewhat uncomfortable, it does navigate the reader through the concept behind them and explain ways to make team-building a positive experience rather than a painful one. More importantly, it emphasizes that success is not going to happen instantaneously, or without setbacks on the way.

The book won’t turn anyone into a magical manager overnight, but a manager who needs to build or revitalize a team and is willing to make adjustments to his or her own behavior will find it useful.