Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Book Review)

I’ve often thought that the hardest part about building a software product was creating an environment where the people on the project can work together effectively. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team kept showing up on recommended book lists and I finally decided to get a copy. I’m glad I did. This quick to read book helped me to remember some simple, yet important, things about how great teams work.

Reminiscent of The Goal and The Deadline, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team spends most of its time teaching its lessons using the example of a fictionalized story of a new CEO joining company in trouble.

The CEO uses the model to help the executive “team” become a team in more than name. Even though the story itself isn’t great literature, since I’ve been in and around dynamics similar to those in the book, I really wanted to see what happened next. (Though a successful ending was never really in doubt.)

There is a brief summary of the 5 dysfunctions model at the end, but the story form really drives the point home better than the 37ish page summary of the model. You could just jump to the summary of the model, but the lessons might not stick, and the power of the simple model might be as clear. What the model description adds is the important point that the parts of the model work as a system, and can’t really be taken independently.

If you’re on an agile team you might want to think about how agile methods both rely on and encourage the elements of the model.

If you are on a team, (or even part of a family) you’ll find value in this book, either as a way to lead others to form a better team, or as a way to understand what’s happening around you so that you can do better on your own, and make the right choices to help you work on a good team.