Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Avoidance of Accountability

For the past 3 days, I have been writing about the book Five Dysfunctions of a team. Check out the previous posts about the first three dysfunctions – Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, and Lack of Commitment.

When a team doesn’t trust the members and hide their weaknesses and mistakes, it would lead to the fear of Conflict. The members wouldn’t want to argue and have a healthy discussion. This would lead to a lack of commitment from each member. There will be a few team members who wouldn’t buy-in to the team decision. This leads to the fourth dysfunction – Avoidance of Accountability.

Even if a single team member doesn’t agree with the team’s decision and doesn’t want to commit, he would feel like he isn’t involved in the process. If anything screws up he would just claim “I didn’t agree to this at all. Don’t ask me.” or “I aired my opinion on this before itself, I knew it would fail.” This kind of behaviour ends up hurting the team.

Each team member needs to understand that everyone in the team is involved in the decision and is held accountable for anything that might happen. The members need to own the decision and the product/company. They need to hold each other to a higher standard and constantly drive each other to perform better to reach the end goal.

Whenever one team member shrugs off his responsibilities, the others need to point it out and make him realise that his behaviour is causing failure in the quality of work others do. The team needs to self-regulate each other.

How to identify your team has this dysfunction

It is easy to identify this as each member would wash off their hands on any difficult situation. They become a mediocre team and have a lower standard for performance. This causes deadlines to be missed and ends up with missing all the goals.

How to overcome this dysfunction

There are easy ways to overcome this dysfunction. Whenever there is a group meeting to decide something, make sure you listen to everyone’s arguments and accept their point of view. At the end of the meeting, once everyone has committed to the decisions, make a clear list of goals and standards that was decided. List them out on a paper and email it to everyone in the team.

It is up to the team leader to translate these goals to clear objectives for his subordinates. By making sure everything is recorded accurately, it would avoid any kind of ambiguity.

There should be simple and regular progress reviews. Team members should be given constant feedback on how they are performing regularly. List down the stated goals and objectives and mark against them how each team member is performing.

Finally, the team leader or CEO needs to bring about this culture of accountability by creating a disciplined environment. Whenever a team member does something against the standards set, make sure others point it out. If no one speaks it out the team leader needs to speak out.

By having this kind of culture, the team eventually learns to keep everyone at a higher standard and hold each other accountable for all the decisions that they take.


Also published on Medium.

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