Five Dysfunctions of a team — Lack of Commitment

This week I am writing about the book Five Dysfunctions of a Team which is about a fictional company whose executive team is highly dysfunctional and how the new CEO brings them all together to create a better company. Last two days were about the first two dysfunctions: Absence of Trust and Fear of Conflict.

I was explaining how when the team members don’t trust each other to not use their mistakes and weaknesses against each other, they will be afraid to argue and have open conflicts. When the team is afraid of facing conflicts, there won’t be a clear commitment from each team members.

Any decision that needs to be taken will have few members who don’t publicly air their opinion. This discontentment would lead to the entire team leaving the meeting without reaching a consensus.

To get a commitment from all the team members, two things are needed

  1. Clarity
  2. Buy-in

Great teams always leave a meeting with a clarity of the decision that was taken and also with the knowledge that every member had the buy-in. No single team member is harbouring doubts and disbeliefs about the decisions.

Note that there is no need for a consensus or certainty in reaching a commitment. No team can get both. There will always be one or two team members who will not completely believe in the decision, but the team needs to give a valid space to air their concerns. The team also needs to accept the concerns and move forward taking into account each person’s views.

Also, no one can be certain that the decision you take today will be the best decision. Things always change, the business landscape might cause a different outcome. Competition might get better funding. But you have gotta take a decision “today” with all the possible information available as of now. You can’t keep pushing away and not reach a commitment.

How to overcome this dysfunction

There are very specific steps to overcome this dysfunction. One of the important steps every team needs to do is to reach a decision with a deadline. They have to decide by when they need to commit and stick to it.

And once everyone buys into the decision, they need to cascade the information down to the next levels. If the executive team decides that they are going increase number of customers by 100, this information needs to percolate down to the next levels. Each employee in sales, marketing, tech needs to understand the goal and start working towards it.

Always think about contingency and worst-case scenarios for each decision. This would help mitigate the risk and fear of failure. And instead of doing time-consuming research and studies, start discussing with each other with as little research as possible. Only during the discussion among the team members, various viewpoints will be exposed and it will lead to a better decision.

Tomorrow we will see how not having a fully committed team would lead to our fourth dysfunction — lack of accountability.


Originally published at Srinivasan Rangarajan.