Haupz Blog

... still a totally disordered mix

The Five Dysfunctions of an Engineering Team

2022-06-19 — Michael Haupt

I'm a bit of a Patrick Lencioni scholar, and will always be happy to find others applying his tools. His book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a classic - most have at least heard of it, many have read it, some are consciously applying the "pyramid" model, which has (to name the functions rather than the dysfunctions) trust at the foundation, healthy conflict one layer above, commitments and accountability next, and attention to results at the top. None of the higher levels can work without the lower ones working. Ergo, trust is the number one ingredient to a well-functioning team.

Here's a post that applies the model to engineering teams. (I have borrowed its title for this one, and added just some emphasis.) It gives a nice summary of the model in just two paragraphs, and then goes into detail about how each of the dysfunctions can play out specifically in engineering teams. Many of the observations apply to teams in general (as does the model), but the perspective is still valuable.

Random spotlight on the dysfunction lack of commitment: Do you frequently miss sprint goals? Do team members often work on things unrelated to the sprint goals? Are code quality standards ignored, and many corners cut? Those would be signs of lack of commitment - and before addressing them (there's always a next retro, right?), it's important to make sure the possibly underlying cause - lack of (healthy) conflict - needs to be addressed first, but not before the most fundamental one - distrust.

The model is quite solid, and implementing it takes a lot of courage. A lot. Its faithful implementation won't allow any distrust to slip through. It'll transform how team members interact - in a good way. Maybe the model's implementation will make some people feel uncomfortable with all the openness, passionate discussions, commitments, calling others on those, and so forth - but after all, every single team member is there for a reason, and that's the team's (and company's) mission and purpose.

Tags: work