This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Lencioni is a fun speaker

Patrick Lencioni was the keynote speaker today at the Project Flow conference.  He did a great job of speaking on the topic of "Building a Culture of Teamwork and Engagement" with a focus on telling hilarious stories about business and himself.  He also did a nice job of connecting his general work with the value to project management and the bulk of the audience.  Oh, and I got a free book for asking on of the first questions (his Death by Meeting).  I suspect you could pick up a lot of the below from reading his books, but here is a summary of the 90 minutes he spent with us today.

He started with a quick description of the key requirements for successful organizations.  They need Smart and Healthy.  The smarts are almost guaranteed and the easiest to show quantitatively.  The Healthy part is much harder and to do - and many people don't want to do it.  Healthy organizations know how to minimize confusion and politics.  They have high morale, high productivity, low turnover (among people who fit).

Most companies are smart enough to succeed.  Many are not healthy enough to do so. [Insert story about company of well-qualified, smart people who had no idea how to work together and could not move forward.]

Being healthy enables you to tap into your intelligence.

How do you get to being a healthy organization?  In Lencioni's version, you need Cohesion, Organizational clarity, Over-communicate that clarity, and reinforce that clarity through the human systems (management, hiring, firing, etc).  Lencioni suggested that if people in the company can't do a good job of imitating the leaders talking about that Clarity, then there is not enough communication.

The bulk of Lencioni's discussion was around his books on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (and how to change it), and 3 Signs of a Miserable Job.  The dysfunctions are a Maslow's hierarchy-like pile of elements that if you don't have the first, the higher ones aren't possible:

  1. Absence of trust.  Trust is the basis of a well-functioning team and without it all sorts of unhappy things result.  Lencioni focused on the idea that teams have to have "vulnerability trust" - enough trust to be able to say "I need help" or "I was wrong" or "I don't know."  The leader's role here is clear: let them see you sweat.
  2. Fear of conflict.  If people are afraid to disagree with one another - disagree on technical merit, not on a personal level, decisions don't get made.  This immediately made me think of the Abilene Paradox that I ran across recently: Teams do dumb things because the people on the team are afraid to disagree or stand up and say, "this is dumb."  The leader's role is to mine for conflict - and without that trust, there is no chance to surface the conflict.
  3. Lack of commitment.  Even if there is disagreement, the team members have to weigh in on the decision - without that, they won't buy into it.  And without buy-in, they will undermine it.  The leader's role is to make sure everyone participates and then make the decision with all their inputs AND with solid reasoning.
  4. Avoidance of accountability.  I loved the statement that the more a leader avoids taking accountability, the less everyone else will take it as well.  It has to become unacceptable for people to say, "I don't have time for that," particularly when it comes to holding people accountable for their behavior.  The leader has to confront the difficult issues.
  5. Inattention to results.  The team has to be there for a reason - for results.  The leader must help focus on the collective outcomes. 

And the 3 Sign of a Miserable Job?  First off, any job can be fulfilling - it all depends on who you are.  So it isn't the content of the job, it is the environment.  Back to the idea of Healthy business, right?  People are miserable in their jobs when they feel Anonymous, when they feel Irrelevant, and when they have no way of judging how well they are doing (something Lencioni calls "immeasurement").

If you get a chance to hear Patrick Lencioni speak, I suggest you go have a listen.  And laugh.  And think.

Do Agile and Theory of Constraints relate?

PF2009: Break the vicious cycle