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5 Dysfunctions of a team

Five Dysfunctions of a Team: Commitment

This will be part of a 5-part series about the five common dysfunctions of a team to create more awareness on common issues and explore potential solutions. In case you’re not familiar with the framework, this book was written by Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group (a firm that has been helping leaders improve their organizational health since 1997). This framework has stood the test of time and highlights important learnings for leaders in the workplace now more than ever.

The third pillar of the 5 dysfunctions is Lack of Commitment at work.

What is Lack of Commitment? According to Lencioni, this particular dysfunction is the result of two factors: lack of clarity and buy-in. In the book, he posits that lack of clarity and buy-in are the result of two predominant behaviors in the workplace: a desire for consensus and a need for certainty.

A desire for consensus can significantly delay decisions and create paralysis in the team. The solution is not to lead with a dictatorial approach where the top person makes all the calls. Instead, it’s about finding a way that while all members of the team may not get their way, they have been heard and considered and acknowledged. If the group has trouble making a decision, then the leader can make the call without worrying about upsetting anyone. In a high-performing team, everyone is heard and willing to rally around the final decision. There is ultimate buy-in from the team in the end.

The need for certainty can also be paralyzing to a team. A high-performing team is able to stand behind a decision and be committed to the path despite not having all the information. If they happen to take the wrong path, they are able to boldly change direction rather than waver. In dysfunctional teams, decisions get delayed until there is an overload of data and information to drive more confidence. When taken too long, it generates a lack of confidence within the team in their ability to make decisions.

Here’s How Lack of Commitment at Work Can Feel:

  • Discord: without a commitment to clear decisions that resolve disagreements in the organization, employees will clash with conflicting marching orders that aren’t aligned with those of their colleagues in other departments.
  • Paralysis: the lack of commitment from senior leaders will often create ripple effects across the organization that results in a paralysis to take any significant action. Teams will often feel stuck, unable to reach a decision without the commitment of others.
  • Low Motivation: the long-term effects of low commitment in an organization is an erosion of motivation and commitment at the individual level. Without a rallying cause, teams will lose sight of what they are working towards.
  • Long-Term Decay in Results. Without agility and commitment to respond to change, organizations can fall behind in the competitive market and lose momentum in the long-run.

Ways to Improve Lack of Commitment:

  • Be clear for every level of your organization. As mentioned above, lack of clarity is one of two major factors that lead to lack of commitment. Driving clarity across senior leaders is step one, followed by cascading the message as a unified front in a way that people can understand. Specifically, being clear to employees beyond senior leadership may involve extra thoughtfulness on what it means for people at different levels of the company. This will help avoid the lack of clarity that often comes from very theoretical and unrealistic visionary statements. Ensuring that every leader is able to answer questions and stay consistent in the messaging is also important in driving clarity in the long-term.
  • Facilitate effective buy-in with clear deadlines. As mentioned in the Fear of Conflict post, healthy debate and having all voices heard is an important part of organizational success. The fast-follow action is to channel this healthy debate with diverse perspectives into a commitment to a decision that everyone ultimately gets behind. The key is to not get stuck in the endless debates and set realistic timelines for decision-making.
  • Create contingency planning. One thing that COVID-19 has taught businesses is that disruptive change can happen at any moment. Organizations that are able to get more comfortable taking risks with contingency plans and scenario planning will be better set up to win in the increasingly dynamic workplace. Creating the organizational flexibility to react to change is also a critical part of success.
  • Role of a leader: Leaders will have to become more comfortable with the possibility of being wrong and making a wrong decision. In addition, leaders who push the team for closure on issues will ensure that there isn’t a high premium placed on consensus or certainty.

Previous Post on Fear of Conflict 

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