Team dynamics & dysfunctions

Narinder Sharma

Team dynamics are the unconscious psychological forces that influence the direction of a team’s behaviour and performance. Team dynamics are created by the nature of the team’s work, the personalities within the team, their working relationships with other people, and the environment in which the team works.


Team dynamics can be good, for example, when they improve overall team performance and get the best out of individual team members. However, they can also be harmful, for example, when they cause unproductive conflict, demotivation, and prevent the team from achieving its goals.

One of my favourite team models is the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Anyone who has ever had to work with other people to achieve something important has no doubt realized how crucial and yet difficult teamwork is. Indeed, great teamwork does not happen accidentally; it requires concerted and deliberate efforts. This is because teams are inherently dysfunctional: they are made up of imperfect individuals with egos and selfish goals. Luckily, it is possible to achieve great teamwork using certain tools and principles.

Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.

Steve Jobs

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Book by Patrick Lencioni

This model describes the following five factors that hinder a team from becoming a high-performing team:

#1 The absence of trust -- unwilling to be vulnerable within the group; 
#2 Fear of conflict -- artificial harmony over constructive, passionate debate; 
#4 Avoidance of accountability -- shirk responsibility of calling peers on counterproductive behaviour or low standards; 
#3 Lack of commitment -- uncommitted to group decisions or simply feign agreement with them; 
#5 Inattention to results -- you prioritize individual needs over the overall team's success. Through motivation and team development, project managers can build effective teams.

The PMBOK Guide defines the performance of a successful team as follows. The performance of a successful team is measured in terms of technical success according to agreed-upon project objectives, project schedule performance, and budget performance.

It also tells us how these high-performing teams can be developed.

High team performance can be achieved by using open and effective communication, creating team-building opportunities, developing trust among team members, managing conflicts constructively, and encouraging collaborative problem-solving and decision-making. Effective teams communicate freely, exchange input and feedback, and discuss ideas openly. Team members working effectively together are more enthusiastic and committed, and they will resolve conflicts more quickly without Intervention.

Project managers must also become comfortable identifying signs that their team is breaking down. Oftentimes, chronic complaining about progress or workload to one another or the project manager, apathy, poor communication, and missed deadlines are red flags.

When a project manager intervenes in such a situation, it is often helpful to call a meeting where team members can air their concerns, and the project management team can gather information to decide on a course of action, which might be additional training that will allow staff to complete work with less frustration. Or the project management team might decide to use other team development techniques.

More on this and Team Development Model in my next post stay tuned.