Thursday, September 18, 2008

Review: Lencioni The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

I picked this book up from my senior pastor, who was given it as part of a ministers’ retreat. He’d found it helpful and I’m into reading books, so I gave it a read.

The first thing to say is that this is a genre of book well outside my normal range. I have little to zero management or leadership experience, especially in any corporate sense. The book is pitched primarily towards the business world, though others have no doubt found it useful (including clergy). That said, one of the things I have learnt recently is that I need to read diversly, and acquire skills and talents in areas that are not my area. That includes ‘leadership’.

The book consists of two halves. The first half is the ‘fable’. It depicts a CEO brought in to a company with an excellent executive team, who are failing miserably to work as a team. It shows that CEO bringing the team together based on the 5 dysfunctions. These include: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, inattention to results. The second part of the book breaks these down in straight-talk – what they are, why they are a problem, and how to do something about them.

Frustratingly, the book provides no rationale or theory for its hypotheses. Why these 5? Are they right? Nonetheless, I suspect Lencioni is on to something, or some things. In thinking about the church, I was struck by thinking through a number of questions:

1. Inattention to results – our churches tend to avoid the question of converts. A growing church has converts – lost people coming to know Jesus and follow him as disciples for life. It’s almost a taboo question to ask about fruit from mission or evangelistic activities. It shouldn’t be. We need to be measuring our churches against both faithfulness and fruitfulness, and hiding behind calvinist and the sovereignty of God won’t cut it.

2. Avoidance of accountability and lack of commitment. I would say our churches in Aus. are characterised by a lack of commitment – people don’t buy-in and ‘own’ what church is on about – especially missional engagement with lost people. Too many of us treat the church like a cosy nest for saved people. We don’t get on board with things, and avoidance of accountability flows out of that – we are slack at confronting people about sin, and won’t call people on failing in responsibilities because they’re no more committed than we are and we don’t like confrontation.

Lastly, should you read this book? This book has some helpful things to say, especially if you’re involved in a team focused on a task, or if you’re in leadership of a team. It’s probably not a book worth buying, to be honest. It’s a quick read though, and you can get the guts of it quite rapidly, in fact my review has told you the core elements already!

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable


Mark said...

Our staff team recently watched a DVD in which Lencioni spoke to a bunch of pastors in the US. I agree the points he makes are not grounded in any particularly developed analysis, apart from his own personal experience and observation. That said, they do largely seem to ring true (from my limited experience), ie. they make sense of dysfunctionality in any team, Christian or otherwise. And though he is a businessman first (and a lapsed Catholic second!) his thesis seems fairly connected to a biblical view of relationships, ie. it wouldn't be hard to find supporting scriptural texts for each point (not that you necessarily need or would want to do that!).

Seumas Macdonald said...

I think you're spot on that his dysfunctions line up with a generally biblical view of relationships. Right at the end of the book he makes a great point - this isn't complicated theory. What it takes is a small set of principles, and a commitment to working them out over a long period of time.