Dysfunction of A Team - 5

Inattention to Results - The 5th Dysfunction of A Team

The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something else than the collective goals of the group. Team members value their personal merit over the joint success of the team. This behavior arise from the underlying habit of valuing individual self-management over team-commitment, coming along with pretending to do and be better than others, while hiding and denying personal failure and weakness. And even some organisation still work against high performance of their teams by having an individual target and bonus system. However, all the pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective high-performance and success of a Scrum team. A functional team makes the collective results of the group more important to each individual than individual members’ goals.

As conclusion, dysfunctional teams waste inordinate amounts of time and energy managing their behaviors and interactions within the group. They tend to dread team meetings, and are reluctant to take risks in asking for or offering assistance to others. As a result, morale on distrusting teams is usually quite low, and unwanted turnover is high. Let me conclude the overview of the five dysfunctions of a team with a quote found on Patrick Lencioni’s book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team": "Successful teamwork is not about mastering subtle, sophisticated theories, but rather about combining common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence. Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make teamwork so elusive."

Overcome the Inattention to Results

A team goes about ensuring that its attention is focused on results by making results clear, and rewarding only those behaviors and actions that contribute to those results. Teams that are willing to commit publicly to specific results are more likely to work with a passionate, even desperate desire to achieve those results. An effective way to ensure that team members focus their attention on results is to tie their rewards, especially compensation, to achieving specific outcomes.

Perhaps more than with any of the other dysfunctions, the leader must set consequently the tone for a focus on results. The leader must consequently focus on collective results. If team members sense that the leader values anything other than collective results, they will take that as permission to do the same for themselves. Team leaders must be selfless and objective, and reserve rewards and recognition for those who make real contributions to achieving group goals.

Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions

Lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results are the three dysfunctions which are recognized by most of the Scrum Masters or managers. However, in many cases they are just symptoms for the two underlying dysfunctions, the absence of trust that comes along with fear of conflict. And, just to mention it, all of them are influenced by the organisation’s culture established.

Scrum Masters and managers who are not familiar with the 5 dysfunctions of a team tend to stay and focus on solving these three upper levels to call their peers on performance and behaviors that support the team. These are the levels where the leadership style of command-and-control may have an influence. However, the command-and-control behavior ceases a vicious cycle that erodes trust. Lyssa Adkins describes this cycle in her book Coaching Agile Teams as follows: "You don’t trust the team, so you tell them what to do. They do what you said, not really what they thought they should do. The results are not what you wanted, so you tell them what to do again, this time more explicitly. And the cycle continues. In this cycle, everyone loses trust and confidence." To recover from this command-and-control-ism, you must start with building trust and extend trust to the team.

Naturally, you can and should set the expectation for high performance from day one. Expecting high performance does not mean that you demand it. Expecting high performance means that you believe that the team can attend it, so you hold them, compassionately and firmly, to that expectation. More important at a starting point is however that, the first focus of a Scrum Master should be on trust inside the team, then on the performance of the team.

Conclusion

The biggest and perhaps most difficult steps are the two first steps of building trust and healthy conflict culture and resolution skills. These two steps mostly come along with a change of the culture established within the organization. These two levels are probably the levels where most teams and organizations fail on its way of becoming a highly performant team and organization. Unfortunately, a highly productive team cannot be achieved overnight. It requires shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility, and an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of team members. However, by taking a focused approach together with an experienced Agile Coach, a team can dramatically accelerate the process and achieve productivity in relatively short time.

This is a possible agenda for Scrum Masters, managers and team leaders to overcome the five dysfunctions of a team:

  1. build trust into the team, set standards as well as expectations for high performance;
  2. get the team engaged in healthy conflicts;
  3. set the main team result (the goal) your team want to have achieve by a defined day;
  4. get the commitment of all team members to reach out together for the agreed result;
  5. create and improve continuously the environment of a healthy organization wherein all peers are holding one another accountable;
  6. celebrate when results are achieved; hold a retrospective in any case; and
  7. then reach out with your team for the next level and result.

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