Growing Pains

Designing better teams by understanding the common pitfalls

Ross Chapman
Dec 23, 2019 · 2 min read
Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

Ask anyone that manages a team or department, and the area that they spend most of their time on and worry the most about is their people.

I’m becoming ever interested in the design of teams. Whilst I’ve discovered a better way of working in the Design Sprint, the design of a team is a necessary area of understanding. I mean, you can’t have a great way of working with a team that can’t work together.

To build a great team, we need to understand the common issues that people have at work. It’s not all smooth-sailing and there are many pitfalls that teams face as they seek to “grow together.” A team is made up of individuals, each in a different stage of their lives, in their career and dealing with life like anyone else.

Consultant and speaker Patrick Lencioni wrote about some of the fundamental causes of organisational politics and team failure in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

According to Patrick, the five dysfunctions are:

  1. Absence of trust — unwilling to be vulnerable within the group
  2. Fear of conflict — seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate
  3. Lack of commitment — feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization
  4. Avoidance of accountability — ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behaviour which sets low standards
  5. Inattention to results — focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success

We’ve experienced problems with embedding design thinking in the work that we do, consulting teams of people how to change and evolve their capability in-house.

Over the next couple of months, I will be analysing each dysfunction in turn and adding what I witness with the teams I work with. I’ll also include my experience and insights in building teams over the past 10 years.

I’m Ross Chapman and I run Etch Sprints. We unlock the value of teams and fundamentally change the way organisations operate.

You can find more on Instagram, and listen to what I have to say about organisational change on the Etch Podcast.


Stories from a business design and consulting agency Etch.

Ross Chapman

Written by

Product designer and facilitator at Etch Sprints



Stories from a business design and consulting agency Etch.

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