About this lesson
Since project teams are comprised of people, there are times when the project team will become dysfunctional. Team members begin to violate team ground rules and team cohesion and trust are undermined. In this lesson, we discuss a framework for recognizing this and addressing dysfunctional behavior.
Project Team Dysfunctions
A dysfunctional project team will impact project performance and often impact project compliance. Dysfunctional behavior must be recognized and addressed.
When to use
Whenever a project team shows signs of dysfunctional behavior it should be addressed. The behavior often becomes evident when a project is under pressure and when the project team goes through a major change in membership.
A dysfunctional project team is characterized by poor communication and has trouble making decisions. There are often political factions on the team and the project impact becomes one of missed milestones and inferior work. A high-performing team can become dysfunctional, and a dysfunctional team can turn into a high-performing team. The key is to recognize the dysfunctional behavior, address that behavior, and begin to use healthy team practices.
One quick way to identify dysfunctional behavior is when an individual is violating team ground rules. The team jointly created these in kick-off meetings and team-building sessions. Since the team created the ground rules they can change them to address issues and improve performance. However, if someone develops a pattern of violating the ground rules that they previously agreed to follow, it undermines trust in everything else that they have agreed to do. The project leader needs to address this problem with the individual. If the project leader is the person not following the team ground rules, the core team needs to confront the project leader.
Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” provides an excellent model for assessing project team performance to identify and resolve dysfunctional team behavior. The five dysfunctions he identifies are:
- Absence of Trust – characterized by team members assuming an aura of invulnerability
- Fear of Conflict – characterized by artificial harmony on the team
- Lack of Commitment – characterized by team members becoming vague and ambiguous whenever questioned about project activities
- Avoidance of Accountability – characterized by a reduction of standards to the point where the person cannot fail
- Inattention to Results – characterized by placing an emphasis on status and ego rather than team performance
Hints & tips
- Beware of complacency, high performing teams tend towards dysfunctional behavior.
- Dysfunctional behavior seldom corrects itself, so when you observe it, deal with it.
- Changes to the project team often lead to dysfunctional behavior if the new team members are not assimilated well
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