2007-01-25

Dysfunction Junction

I have found a book, now topping the non-fiction bestsellers list, that could help us moribund metabloggers. It is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

Here's an excerpt, courtesy of USA Today:

Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is powerful and so rare.

A friend of mine, the founder of a company that grew to a billion dollars in annual revenue, best expressed the power of teamwork when he once told me, "If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time."

Whenever I repeat that saying to a group of leaders, they immediately nod their heads, but in a desperate sort of way. They seem to grasp the truth of it while simultaneously surrendering to the impossibility of actually making it happen.

And that is where the rarity of teamwork comes into play. For all the attention that it has received over the years from scholars, coaches, teachers, and the media, teamwork is as elusive as it has ever been within most organizations. The fact remains that teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional.

11 comments:

The Chair said...

My experience with dysfunctional teams is extensive. Having been on several teams over the span of my career, I have come up with the optimal team size: No team should be composed of more than three people. Invariably, all 4-person teams have one person who does nothing to contribute to the team effort. They basically are along for the ride. But it gets worse. If you belong to a team with 5 people -- that 5th person will actually conspire against the other 4 members. They produce negative output such that you'd be better off going back to three people. I believe there are factorial effects once we get up to the size of corporations.

Harmony said...

Talking about teams made me think of marriages. Lots of those don't work, probably for many of the same reasons mentioned here. Obviously, teamwork is important, in your work or personal life. And I can think of so many current examples of that, eh?

4th Dwarf said...

IO, you've come through again. We don't need a new muse; we don't need to open our own bar; we need to work on our teamwork!

I'll admit it, I'm not the best at teamwork. Came close to washing out of pirate school because of it. And while I'm the Fourth Dwarf, maybe I'm even the Fifth man that the Chair writes about. So I could learn more about teamwork... but maybe we all could.

We missed an opportunity this weekend. We could have gotten ourselves into the Punk Rock Bowling Tournament that Jo Stockton went to. [1, 2]

Don't fret, there are other opportunities out there for us.

We could sign up for this Learning Tree course, Leadership Skills: Building Success Through Teamwork. They have a session in Ottawa in May. But I'm afraid that if we all study leadership things'll get worse around here.

Probably better if we do team-building exercises. I have a hunch Aggie and Conchie have experience with some of these. Here's a photo of youngsters at U of Ottawa learning about teamwork while building a useful pop-can tower.

It would be great to put a team in the Dragon Boat Race, but we need 20 people. That would mean finding 12 people willing to get into a water vessel with us. Not likely.

The obvious answer is for the six of us to sign up for one of them Outward Bondage type adventures. I've found one that's perfect: An Algonquin Park Dogsledding Weekend. There are spaces open in the March 9 - March 11 weekend. It's pricey, but maybe they'd give us a discount if we provided our own dog.

Agatha said...

I like that you call it "Outward Bondage", Dwarfie. A little Freudian slip? When teamwork gets kinky...

coyote said...

To sum up; One of our six-member team posits that teams of more than three are inherently dysfunctional, with any member above that number acting as a destructive influence; the next notes, that teams of two are often pretty damn dysfunctional, too; a self-admitted potential saboteur wants to strap moi to a dogsled and make me drag him through the ice and snow in a 'teambuilding' effort. That'd be your bondage, Aggie. And not to be a bad sport, or anything, but the only working team in that scenario seems to be strictly of the canine sort...

Let the dysfunctional games begin! Er, continue...

4th Dwarf said...

Freudian slip, Aggie? No, I thought that was their name. Aren't they always strapping people into harnesses and dangling them off giant wooden racks?

As for you, Coyote, good summary, but where do we go from there?

How about we all go on a quest?

Harmony said...

Uh, oh, not another virtual world...
Perhaps we should stick to "developing our skills" in the real one?

coyote said...

You say that like we have some....

Harmony said...

Well, we do. After all, Aggie can gut smelt like nobody's business, and I've seen you totally pluck a chicken before it even knew someone was undressing it. Then, there was the pelican incident...but anyway, at least we'll never starve to death.

4th Dwarf said...

Hmm, maybe y're onto something here, Harmony. Your chicken with dates and olives is a major treat.

The Chair is legendary for his cocktails...

coyote said...

Oh. I thot we wuz talkin' people skills... never mind then.