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Unpacking the 5 Dysfunctions of Teams in Agile Practices: A 90-Day Game Plan for Transformation

Dysfunction of Team
Dysfunction of Team

In the world of agile methodologies, effective teamwork is paramount. However, even within agile frameworks, teams can struggle with common dysfunctions that hinder their productivity and success. Patrick Lencioni's "Five Dysfunctions of a Team" provides valuable insights into these challenges and offers a roadmap for overcoming them. In this blog post, we'll explore how these dysfunctions relate to agile practices and outline a 90-day game plan to address them head-on.

Understanding the 5 Dysfunctions:

1. Absence of Trust: In agile teams, trust is essential for fostering collaboration and enabling open communication. Without trust, team members may withhold valuable information or hesitate to seek help when needed, ultimately impacting the team's ability to deliver.

When reflecting on trust, I recall a recent experience with a mainframe team encountering challenges with one of its leaders. The situation became so problematic that I found it necessary to establish ground rules, prohibiting discussions about that individual during team meetings. To address this issue, we initiated discussions on preferred ways of working with team leaders and formally documented these agreements in the team's working agreement.

2. Fear of Conflict: Agile methodologies encourage healthy debate and constructive conflict as a means to drive innovation and problem-solving. However, if team members fear conflict, they may shy away from expressing differing opinions, leading to groupthink and suboptimal solutions.

What I've discovered is that team leadership is frequently determined by tenure or the individual who has been with the team the longest. To ensure that all voices are heard, especially those of quieter or less experienced team members, I utilize the retrospective as a platform for surfacing diverse perspectives. Additionally, I actively encourage experimentation as a means of learning and improvement within the team.

3. Lack of Commitment: Agile teams rely on collective commitment to achieve their goals. When team members lack clarity or buy-in regarding project objectives or decisions, it can result in missed deadlines, scope creep, and overall project stagnation.

In Sprint Planning sessions, I coach Scrum Masters on ways of facilitating discussions to uncover dependencies, issues, and risks anticipated in the upcoming weeks, aiming to enhance the team's commitment. By visualizing potential obstacles, the can proactively strategize ways to overcome them and stay on track for project completion. Additionally, in working with Scrum Masters to emphasize the importance of considering time off and devising strategies for redistributing workload to ensure continuity and balance within the team.

4. Avoidance of Accountability: Accountability is crucial in agile practices to ensure that team members are held responsible for their commitments and contributions. Without accountability, team morale may suffer, and the quality of work may decline.

In a previous team that I coached, QA was tasked with leading the demo. If a feature hadn't passed through QA, it wasn't presented. To shift this dynamic, I established a new expectation: every team member should be prepared to demo their work every two weeks. Another method of instilling this expectation is by prompting discussions during Sprint Planning about how each task or feature could be demonstrated.

5. Inattention to Results: Agile teams should prioritize delivering value to stakeholders and achieving project objectives. When individuals focus solely on their personal achievements or interests, it can undermine the team's collective performance and jeopardize project success.

Frequently, teams become overly fixated on the quantity of stories or points they've completed, losing sight of the ultimate goal: delivering the intended features. That's why I prioritize using dashboards that emphasize the end result. Instead of complex metrics, I opt for straightforward bar graphs that illustrate the progress made versus what remains to be done. This approach not only keeps the team focused on the big picture but also highlights any potential issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.

90-Day Game Plan to Address the Dysfunctions:

Days 1-30: Building Trust and Psychological Safety

- Conduct team-building activities/ways of working discussions to foster connections and build rapport among team members.

- Encourage vulnerability by sharing personal experiences and perspectives during team meetings. Start with yourself being vulnerable to encourage open and honest conversations.

- Establish norms for open communication and feedback, ensuring that all team members feel heard and valued.

- Implement peer recognition programs to celebrate individual contributions and foster a culture of appreciation.

Days 31-60: Embracing Healthy Conflict

- Facilitate workshops on constructive conflict resolution techniques, such as active listening and perspective-taking.

- Encourage team members to voice their opinions and challenge assumptions during sprint planning and retrospectives.

- Establish ground rules for debates and discussions, emphasizing respect and a focus on finding the best solution rather than winning arguments.

- Provide training on giving and receiving feedback effectively, helping team members develop resilience and openness to criticism.

Days 61-90: Strengthening Commitment, Accountability, and Results

- Clarify project goals and expectations, ensuring that all team members understand their roles and responsibilities.

- Implement tools and processes for tracking progress and holding individuals accountable for their tasks and commitments.

- Conduct regular check-ins to review project metrics and celebrate milestones, reinforcing a sense of progress and achievement.

- Foster a culture of continuous improvement by soliciting feedback from stakeholders and incorporating lessons learned into future iterations.


Addressing the five dysfunctions of a team within an agile context requires intentional effort and a commitment to continuous improvement. By prioritizing trust, embracing healthy conflict, fostering commitment, instilling accountability, and focusing on results, agile teams can unlock their full potential and deliver exceptional outcomes. With a 90-day game plan tailored to address these dysfunctions, teams can embark on a transformative journey toward greater collaboration, innovation, and success.

By the way, don't skip reading the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I would like to hear which characters you relate to the most.

Let's schedule a call to tailor this plan specifically for you, your organization, and the tools used within your company.

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