Most often, people engage in groups in work places, schools, and other places of social activities or institutions. For effective teamwork, communication within the group is a major requirement. Many people have come out with ways and means to enhance the performance of teams either in business, research, learning institutions and other areas where group work is applicable. Managers of different organizations have tried to solve the day to day problems in their work places through formation of groups aimed at enhancing the productivity of the members. Lencioni (2002), p. 195) in his book, “The five dysfunctions of a group” has illustrated the five ways that groups can enhance their operations for success.
It is evident that the initial concept of forming groups is geared toward solving inefficiencies of individuals and also enhancing cooperation among group members. However, on the contrary, the effectiveness of many groups is usually below expectation and at times the groups are completely dysfunctional. Lencioni, 2002, p. 187) points out that while a lot of groups may be dysfunctional, the group members are never aware of this fact.
During my five year undergraduate course, work groups in the college were almost inevitable. It is after I read the Lencioni’s book that I came to evaluate the magnitude at which my working group was dysfunctional. Having been oriented in the college, the first lecturer to enter the class emphasized the need to have work groups in the class that was to take us through the four years of our chemical engineering course. Everybody in the group happened to be complete stranger at the start. However, as time went on we happened to know each other quite well since group work became our day to day undertaking. Alloys, the professor of chemistry randomly assigned each member of the class to a group. The groups first day of meeting was to help members familiarize with each other and to define the general modalities of working whenever work was to be given out. In my group’s first meeting, there was nobody to keep things moving. Each member remained silent looking at each other to take up the leadership of conducting introductions of members and preside over the meeting. I softly coughed twice to alert the members that business was supposed to have started. “My name is Usher I welcome you all in the group where we should know each other first.” “Let us introduce ourselves.”
The room remained quiet. Nobody was ready to start the introduction exercise which prompted me to intervene again.
“From the left please.”
I had the courage to kick off the ball rolling despite having no record of leadership in my previous education life.
Though big and heavily built to command respect, Iron was shy to introduce himself. My immediate conclusion at that moment was that the contribution of Iron toward the activities of the group will leave a lot to be desired. His lack of interest in the business that was going on started to cast a bad image of his laziness in my mind and most probably also in the minds of the other two strange colleagues. The third person, in addition to identifying herself as Natty went on to declare that her stand that things should be made simple for the better working of the group. She demonstrated a don’t-care attitude while insisting that all that was required is to meet the minimum requirements of the group like making sure that the group assignments have been handed over to the supervisors just to avoid penalty, if any was to be applied.
Contrary to my expectations, the last person to introduce himself first indicated that we needed to emerge the smartest group in the class. The determination in him spelt out his readiness to do anything to make sure that the group emerged successful in the assignments.
“We need to make sure that everybody participates equally in the assignment” the medium sized boy continued.
“Natty seams contented with any result but my target is to be among the best groups in this class.” It is only later that he introduced himself as Brite.
With time, Brite became the self induced (and deserved) leader of the group where he was the one assigning various responsibilities to team members whenever an assignment arose.
Usher, Iron, Natty and Brite were to remain group members for the next four years. As days went on it emerged that Natty was not ready for complex and difficult tasks. Iron never cared what the details of the assignments were and all he could afford was to make sure the task was being handled while he took back positions. I found myself constantly making interventions between Brite and Natty whose ideologies and suggestions on how tasks should be handled seamed to differ often and conflict arose. In addition, I constantly found myself reminding Iron and Natty of the tasks they had been assigned by Brite just to make sure that the assignments were handled and submitted in time to the supervisors.
Laboratory visits happened every fortnight where we had to carry out an experiment, draw out the report and submit it to the laboratory supervisor. At first, during the experiment every member of the group participated actively, most probably because of the constant supervision by the technicians. Brite took the centre stage during experiments where he constantly queried any results obtained by Natty or Iron. As a result, Brite repeated most of the tasks that Natty and Iron undertook in the assignment. In my second year of study when the results of the experiments were released, they did not meet the expectations of Brite neither mine. On the other hand, Natty was contented with the results while, despite of the announcement of the results, it took Iron two weeks to know the actual results.
Ones in a routine meeting, the furious Brite rose up and angrily confronted us over dismal performances in the practical and experiments.
“I always question the experiment results of Natty” Brite started, “I have never been satisfied with their work; it is the cause of our failure”
“It is well above average; in fact, this is the result of your leadership, so long as we are not to repeat it is okay with me ” Natty’s responded to Brite.
In my intervention to solve the situation and to help define ways to avoid such dismal performance in future, Iron confidently defended himself.
“This is part of life, what else can we do? In addition there are few cases of fail in this course.” Iron seamed to take the issue lightly and so no reason for anger.
“I tried my best to make sure that we become the top group, see, I hate to be part of this group.” My face was full of anger after reflecting the role I played in the group and the fact that nobody wanted to take the blame or mend the situation.
In the subsequent year’s, thing in the group changed from bad to worse. For several instances, my group was penalized either for substandard presentations, late submission of reports and even worse, skipping some laboratory practical sessions. I regretted ever being part of the group. At one instant, I approached professor Alloys to explain why I was never contented with the team I was working with. At this moment everyone was aware that the team was highly ineffective. However, the root causes of our team’s dysfunction could not be traced. I can certainly guess that almost every other member of the team was unhappy with the progress of the group most importantly because of the poor results..
Lencioni (2002, p.187) has suggested the five reasons why teams are highly dysfunctional. It is only after reading his book that I could certainly cite the causes of our team’s ineffectiveness. Lencioni (2002, p. 188) portrays the five dysfunctions in a form of pyramid of the hierarchy of the causes from the root to the results and their relationships to each other. If any member of our group had a chance to know the model, working in the group would have been highly improved. The occasional conflicts would have been geared toward enhancing a more effective team while each member would have been accountable for any good or dismal performance and work towards improving the results.
At first, I found that there was no trust among the team members. As witnessed earlier, any contribution from Natty and Iron was doubted by Brite. On the other hand the team members did not trust themselves on individual performance geared toward achieving the goals. Lack of trust is the first dysfunction in the pyramid. Trust is demonstrated as the foundation of all other dysfunctions. In the model pyramid, it can be vividly shown that trust plays a major role in ensuring that the teams achieve their goals. My initial perception of Iron questioned his ability to make a worthwhile contribution to the team. On the other hand, due to the mistrust that Brite was expressing to other group members, it only helped them to lack trust in themselves. Everyone left the duties of performing the practical experiments to Brite. As time went on, the role of performing the practical was solely left to Brite because nobody thought he/she could match Brite as far as practical performance was concerned. Other members were left to carry out other simpler duties like compiling and handing over the reports. This aspect alone shut down any chance of contribution from any other member of the group during practical sessions. Brite was the sole determiner of the way experiments and results could have been obtained. At the long run, nobody wanted to contribute or give any suggestions to Brite just to avoid any conflict with the perceived leader of the team. It is suggested that trust is built through listening to other people’s views and willingness to change ones views and accommodate the other person’s views.
Most often, people have different perspectives of looking and analyzing issues. Similarly, people would apply different ways of solving issues. Conflict usually arises due to lack of trust. The five dysfunctions model puts fear of conflict as the next dysfunction above absence of trust (Lencioni, 2002, p. 188). Conflict in any team should serve to strengthen the relationship between the members rather than putting them apart. When team members fear to initiate conflicts by expressing their views, they hold their suggestions concerning a particular issue. People usually keep the views to themselves since they are not very sure how the other members would take them. When Brite assumed the role of being the team’s decision maker, giving out our suggestions could only help initiate conflict. I learned that when one trusts and accommodates ones views, it helps in building trust in them in the roles they take in the team. This helps the members to exercise their freedom in the group by demonstrating without any fear of coercion, what they think is the best for the team. When conflicts arise, members should learn to take other peoples views more seriously. This helps one to reflect better on each party’s contribution and weigh the options to come up with the best decision. Fear of conflict ties to the first dysfunction in that, one needs to trust their fellow team members for them to appreciate the importance of health conflicts for the good of the team.
When things started turning sour in the team, every member felt discontented. As a way of expressing their situations, every member assumed their own roles in the team. When Brite was most often involved in the practical work in the laboratory, I found myself undertaking research work concerning the practical. Natty helped in compiling the reports. Iron’s contribution in the group was rather passive. In good days, he would proofread the report and correct the mistakes and then hand in the report to the supervisor. In most cases when Iron participated, handing in of the reports happened late.
Lack of commitment is the third dysfunction in the five dysfunctions of group model (Lencioni, 2002, p. 189). Basically there was lack of communication between team members due to the divisions created. The sequence of tasks left some members waiting for the others to accomplish their duties for them to start theirs. When a problem arose the blame was laid on the people who either performed their duties unsatisfactorily or never performed their roles at all. The response was always “I did my part, he/she didn’t”. It is only by engaging in healthy discussions with all the team members that things can be set moving. In addition when communication is allowed in the group it is possible to assess the progress of the group in relation to a particular task. It is only through healthy discussions including positive conflicts that members will become committed in their teams.
When commitment lacks in a team it is most certain that the team members will lack accountability (Lencioni, 2002, p. 189). The only thing that kept the members of my team working was avoiding penalties from the department. Due to lack of communication, the members did not care much what the other member did or failed to do. In addition, as long as the task you were doing was over and the work is passed on to the next party, members did little to follow the progress of the work. When Natty was compiling one report she once encountered a problem with the data Brite had presented to her for the compilation of the report. Since Natty avoided any instance where she could start conflicts with Brite, she never bothered to inquire for correction. As a result, she compiled the work with the mistake. Soon the supervisor ordered for a repeat of the same task from the start. Natty’s response could only spell lack of accountability.
“The mistake originated from Brite’s practical results, how could I rectify the mess?”
Natty was always conscious of creating conflict with Brite. This is the reason why she avoided consulting for the correct figures. Brite’s response to the issue was that those were the actual figures he got.
“You doubt my results? You can as well go and repeat the practical yourselves”
Nobody was accountable for the problem and nobody either cared for the practical to be redone. The supervisor summoned the group twice before the practical was redone. It was evident that our group had lacked the morale to work together. Nobody cared about the tasks the other person was doing, neither the results obtained after the practical was marked. In addition, as witnessed between Natty and Brite, no one was ready to take the blame for any mistakes or shortcomings in the working of the group.
Lack of accountability by team members normally leads to inattention to results. This appears as the last dysfunction in a team. When members lack accountability they are no longer interested with the end results. Inattention to results appears both as an outcome of the other dysfunctions as well as a cause of inefficiency in teams. When members don’t focus on the results, they are not aware of the problems facing them as a result little will be done to reverse the situation. May be by paying attention to the results I could have tried to bring the team together for us to focus of the way to improve the performance rather than keep ones problems to himself.
When I reflected on the working of the group I concluded that the group was dysfunctional. If Brite accommodated everyone’s participation with trust, the group could have been working as a team from the onset of any task. The conflicts due to differences in opinion should have been appreciated as a means to boost trust in each other as well as a means to pay more attention to issues before any decision is taken. This form of communication where members are free to make any contribution for the good of the team enhances cooperation. Although Iron was not interested from the initial stages, seeking his views could have contributed to bringing him closer to the team. In addition if communication between members was enhanced, the level of commitment of each member could have been enhanced where each member could have participated by giving out the best for the good both individuals good as well as the good of the team. It is evident that as the Lencioni’s model indicates, our lack of trust for each other played a major role in our team’s ineffectiveness.
Lencioni, Patrick. The five dysfunctions of a team: a leadership fable, Volume 13. NJ: John Wiley and Sons. 2002.