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The Uncomfortable Truth of Why Teams Fail

Written by Neil on November 12, 2014

Why teams fail


Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much -Helen Keller

What would you do if someone took credit for all your work? Would you confront him or her, risking a confrontation, or not say anything at all, building up resentment?

It’s a surprising fact, the reason why most new businesses fail is not because of product/market fit, finances, or using the wrong technology. It’s because the team members do not get on with each other.

One of the best books on this subject is called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – by Patrick M. Lencioni. Originally released in 2002, the author explains reasons why teams fail by telling a story about a new CEO facing a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company. This article explains the five main reasons why teams fail. Some of this may be very obvious to you but in reality very difficult to implement.

1. Absence of trust

The first dysfunction is an absence of trust. This happens when team members are not open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses because of fear of reprisals. Results will not be achievable without trust in the team.

2. Fear of Conflict

Following on from the absence of trust is fear of conflict; team members feel uncomfortable when it comes to confrontation. For example, your co-worker is taking all the credit for the work that the two of you did together. By not confronting this situation, it can damage relationships in the long-term.

3. Lack of commitment

The third dysfunction is a lack of commitment among fellow team members. If a decision needs to be made and certain team members have not been consulted or their opinion not even listened to, it will have a detrimental effect in reaching goals and targets.

4. Avoidance of accountability

Without commitment and buy-in to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.

5. Inattention to results

Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where team members put their individual needs or even the needs of their division above the collective goals of the team.

Ways to overcome this

1. Make sure everyone is going in the right direction

Take each team member into a room and ask them what the goal and objectives of the project are. If you get five completely different views then that is the problem and you know something’s not right. You then have to communicate to everyone within the rest of the organization.

2. The experts’ view

In a recent podcast, Tim Ferriss, the author of the bestselling 4-Hour Work Week and serial investor, has ways to check if he wants to work with a team before investing. He takes them for a drink to see if there is a fit. Also, do they pass the shopping mall test, i.e., if you saw this person in a shopping mall would you look the other way or greet them? He believes that if the investment does go wrong–and most investments in start-ups do go wrong–do you really want to spend that time working with someone you don’t actually like?

3. Hackathons

A great way to spend time with someone you are thinking of working with in the future is to attend a hackathon. A hackathon is a gathering where developers, designers, marketers, and entrepreneurs come together to work on projects and come up with a business idea over a short period of time, usually over a weekend. Spending a short and intense amount of time together is a great way of accessing each others strengths and weaknesses to see if there’s a good working relationship.

Final Thoughts

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

If you work in a business or a start-up where things don’t always go the way you’d expect them, read this book; making teams work involves a considerable investment of time and energy. Because as human beings we are complicated and flawed, but by using this simple framework, it is possible that you can get your team rowing in the same direction. By getting everyone working in the same direction you can monopolize any industry, in any market, against any competition.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Patrick M. Lencioni

I’d love it if you would share this article with your social networks, Thanks!




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