• Cooper Shattuck

The Dysfunctional Firm


Patrick Lencione’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team[1] is a must-read for any team. If you work with any other person in delivering your services as a lawyer, then you are functioning (or should be) in a team. Unfortunately, many teams are suffering from dysfunction, whether they know it or not. Dysfunction prevents a team from reaching its maximum potential regardless of how that may be measured – financial success, output, efficiency, economy, satisfaction, or reward.


Great lawyers learn the importance of good story telling.

It is fundamentally human to appreciate, connect with, and relate to a story. Everyone has uncovered the power of the story, just look at how advertising has changed in recent years. Lencione is no different. His 2002 best-selling book effectively communicates his insight into the common dysfunctions of teams through the power of a story. This not only makes the book easy to read but drives home the themes and the messages. In Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the reader follows the story of a relatively new team leader – a CEO – on a retreat with her management team. She discovers and uncovers the dysfunctions which are preventing their company from reaching its maximum potential. She then must deal with each one.


The book not only tells a story but nicely summarizes the key points at the end, provides a quiz which a team can use to measure the level of dysfunction that it has, and provides some great exercises by which a team can address the dysfunctions that it is experiencing.


If you are working in a firm of any size, there may be multiple teams at play. You may find that you are a member of many different teams both within the firm and outside of it. Your practice group is a team. The firm as a whole is a team. The shareholders or partners might also be a sub-team of the firm. You might pull together a unique team for a particular case which includes those within your firm and those from other firms. Each team has its own personality, traits, and qualities. Each may also have its own dysfunctions.


The key to successfully managing a team so that its dysfunctions are minimized or eliminated altogether is to first identify them.

A team may have some dysfunction long before their appearance is apparent. And waiting until they raise their ugly head might be too late to resolve them short of drastic actions (like reconstituting the team). As with most problems, addressing dysfunctions before they grow or get worse is always easier. Then, taking affirmative actions to prevent their reoccurrence is the key to ensure that your team is functioning optimally going forward. It takes intentionality, attention and dogmatic effort. These things don’t happen on their own. It’s why teams have coaches.


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is just one of many tools that we use to help our clients reach their maximum potential – to chart a course to greater success. Contact us today to learn more about our team-building and coaching services.

[1] Available through Amazon.com for less than $20, https://www.amazon.com/Five-Dysfunctions-Team-Leadership-Fable/dp/0787960756.