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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: a leadership fable – review


Title: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
Author: Patrick Lencioni
Publisher: Jossey-Bass, 2002,
Format: Hardback, 237 pp
ISBN: 0-7879-6075-6
Price: £17.50

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"We have a more experienced and talented executive team than any of our competitors. We have more cash than they do. … we have better core technology. And we have a more powerful board of directors. Yet in spite of all that, we are behind two of our competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth. Can anyone tell me why that is?" The answer …. Teamwork, and around this Patrick Lencioni builds a "leadership fable" – a simple story of a fictional, but realistic company.

Patrick tries a difficult act. He tries to marry practical management advice with good storytelling, aiming to make his point more ‘real’ by applying it to an imaginary business scenario. It is a difficult task – making a scenario believable whilst still conveying all the points in a five point teambuilding model. This is why many books of this type are either ‘this is how I did it in my company’ with limited theory, or lots of theory with little in the way of consistent and coherent application to a single company. Fortunately Patrick carries it off magnificently. He builds a theoretical model with very practical, implementable steps – and, just as importantly, writes a darned good story in its own right to boot.

This is a book for ‘doers’ as well as ‘thinkers’, and ought to be compulsory reading for every manager wanting to build a cohesive, forceful and fully functioning team.

I had thought about buying this book to read on a flight to North America last month (April 2002), but decided against it and went elsewhere. I should have bought it, because Patrick’s insights are thoughtful and incisive – "deceptively simple" according to the dust jacket. Of course the proof of a book of this type is whether you can apply the lessons learned, and in the few weeks you get to review the book there is not enough time to really test the ‘product’ as it were, rather than the theory. But I am captivated enough to give it a try.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable is the latest "leadership fable" from Patrick Lencioni, President of a San Francisco firm of management consultants (amongst other roles). The others are "The five temptations of a CEO" and "The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive". On the strength of this eminently readable, but immensely practical, management guide I shall be getting the others.

David C Nicoll
Director, management in a box limited


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