Five Team Dysfunctions That Will Undermine Your Risk Management Culture

September 2012 Bonus Resource

I’m currently reading the book Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators by Patrick Lencioni, published by Jossey-Bass in 2005. I immediately recognized Lencioni’s five dysfunctions of a team because they are also the most common barriers to developing a healthy risk culture.

Lencioni describes the five dysfunctions by contrasting them with how great teams work. (I’ve added the orange font to emphasize the dysfunctional behaviour and the teal font to emphasize the opposite behaviour of great teams.)

  • Dysfunction #1: Absence of TRUST: Members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental emotional level, and they are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviors. They get to a point where they can be completely open with one another, without filters.
  • Dysfunction #2: Fear of CONFLICT: Teams that trust one another are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues and decisions that are key to the organization’s success. They do not hesitate to disagree with, challenge, and question one another, all in the spirit of finding the best answers, discovering the truth and making great decisions.
  • Dysfunction #3: Lack of COMMITMENT: Teams that engage in unfiltered conflict are able to achieve genuine buy-in around important decisions, even when various members of the team initially disagree. That’s because they ensure that all opinions and ideas are put on the table and considered, giving confidence to team members that no stone has been left unturned.
  • Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of ACCOUNTABILITY: Teams that commit to decisions and standards of performance do not hesitate to hold one another accountable for adhering to those decisions and standards. What is more, they don’t rely on the team leader as the primary source of accountability; they go directly to their peers.
  • Dysfunction #5: Inattention to RESULTS: Teams that trust one another, engage in conflict, commit to decisions, and hold one another accountable are very likely to set aside their individual needs and agendas and focus almost exclusively on what is best for the team. They do not give in to the temptation to place their departments, career aspirations, or ego-driven status ahead of the collective results that define team success.”

If these dysfunctions sound all-too-familiar and you want to experience more ‘great team’ behaviour, I strongly recommend you get this book. It’s filled with simple, proven techniques that will help you to deal with many of the most common and challenging ‘people’ issues you will encounter on the ERM journey.

While the techniques and advice are simple, implementing them is not a trivial exercise. It takes effort and persistence to develop great teams, but the potential pay off is huge in terms of enhanced risk assessment and risk management. Plus, the team building will undoubtedly have positive spill-over effects on other aspects of your organization’s performance.

For details and to order this book, follow this link to the Risk Wise Reading List:


Thanks to Ingrid Suurmann, Vice President, Resource and Infrastructure & Chief Financial Officer at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario for suggesting this book to me.

I would love to hear from you about the books that have helped you to be a more effective leader on your enterprise risk management journey.

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Diana's Pick

The Neuroscience of Enterprise Risk Management (written by Diana Del Bel Belluz of Risk Wise) expores findings from the field of neuroscience and shares practical tips on how to apply them to enhance individuals' risk management thinking and implement brain-friendly ERM practices in organizations.

The article was published by The Conference Board of Canada in the Autumn 2017 issue of the journal Risk Watch.