Assessments and their Role in Addressing Team Dysfunction

As work continues to become more and more interdependent, a greater emphasis is being placed on building high performance teams, even though team building has been around for a long time and has established itself as a viable technique for increasing performance. I have always found the iceberg analogy to be illustrative in this situation. That is, the work that gets done by a team represents only a fraction of its overall composition. Underneath, submerged and rarely discussed, are hosts of interpersonal dynamics that affect team performance. This isn't just office politics but communication preferences, problem-solving styles and values as well as other group dynamic factors. Once these submerged issues are on our radar screen they are much more under our conscious control and much less likely to be expressed by our default behavior, which can clash with other team members’ preferences.Created by Uwe Kils (iceberg) and User:Wiska Bodo (sky). [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Teams are comprised of distinct individuals. As such, assessing individual differences lies at the heart of building good teams. We already know that great teams require members with different styles. Teams that are too homogenous aren’t generally good at solving problems. In this regard, the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. It can't just be different individuals, however they need to mesh and interrelate well if they are to function as a unified team. This is where two organizational development techniques can be combined to produce even greater team effectiveness. One is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to assess stylistic differences, and the other is the Five Dysfunctions of a Team to highlight team issues that need to be addressed and resolved.

The MBTI has been a long-standing and valued organizational assessment; it was first published in 1943 by a mother-daughter combination who based their assessment (primarily) on the theories of Carl Jung. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has established itself as a classic since its publication 15 years ago by Patrick Lencioni.

So how do these two models come together? Perhaps the clearest way is to show how the MBTI dimensions relate to the Five Dysfunctions.

Lencioni’s first dysfunction is Absence of Trust, a foundational dysfunction and one that must be resolved first. This team dysfunction applies the MBTI scores as a whole. In many respects just by sharing personal MBTI scores a team member is displaying trust and deepening interpersonal relationships with the other teammates. More specifically, it is related to the Extroversion-Introversion dimension. Extroverts are outwardly oriented and are typically easier to get to know. Introverts, on the other hand, are private types and typically require time before sharing personal information. Knowing where teammates fall on this dimension is clearly important when working out trust issues.

The next dysfunction in Lencioni’s model is Fear of Conflict. This dysfunction is most closely related to the Thinking and Feeling component of the MBTI. For example, Thinking types are often characterized as questioning and tend to be challenging to prompt discussion. This runs counter to the accommodating style of the Feeling types. Feeling individuals are often accepting and tender as opposed to the critical and tough nature typically exemplified by Thinking people. Getting at these differences goes a long way in helping the team members resolve their Fear of Conflict.

What about Lack of Commitment – Lencioni's next team dysfunction? This is most closely related to the Judging and Perceiving MBTI dimension. That is, Judging types, while certainly not judgmental, are more inclined to plan ahead, start projects early and work on a scheduled and methodical basis. Compare this with the Perceiving types who frequently wait until the last minute, are open-ended in their in their approach to projects and are more willing to change course as new information becomes available. Knowing the different levels and understandings of commitment makes it easier for teams to find a consensus.

The Avoidance of Accountability (Lencioni’s fourth dysfunction) is also best related to the Thinking and Feeling dimension, but by different subscales than Fear of Conflict. Individuals scoring on the Thinking side tend to be logical, reasonable and apply abstract standards in evaluating one's performance, whereas those on the Feeling side of the dimension are more likely to be empathic and compassionate to individuals, and to make allowances for lapses in performance or contributions to the team.

Finally, the fifth dysfunction is Inattention to Results, which can relate to the Sensing and Feeling dimension. Sensing types like to focus on concrete, realistic and practical results, whereas as those on the Intuitive side are more inclined to consider abstract, conceptual and theoretical outcomes. Getting the team on the same page with respect to the results to focus on is an essential component for team performance.

Hopefully this post illuminates how two organizational development techniques can be used in combination to produce even greater team effectiveness. But this is one perspective We invite your comments, observations and personal experiences to engender a healthy discussion.


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