Five Dysfunctions of a Team

This book is deceptive in the following sense: team building is easier read than practiced. This lucidly written book makes even reading about team building easier than ever.

I liked this book of the author much more than “Five Temptations of a CEO”. This book is more lucidly written. Still, I disliked too many “they”s from the style point of view.

The fable has a simple plot – how to make a team out of a group of individuals.

To those who have not handled dysfunctional teams, this book may give some idea. However, this book glosses over a lot of gore.

I have successfully reconstructed a team in past and it was much uglier than this.

Without unwavering support of one’s boss, one should simply forget about team building. It is psychologically so taxing, if a book describes that, it won’t sell well.

I will recommend this book to every mother-in-law-to-be and every daughter-in-law-to-be in India.

As I have maintained, team dynamics in Indian society sucks big way. This book addresses some of the key issues Indian social reformers and activists should examine with a microscope.

In essence, the book talks about five dysfunctions – all rooted in absence of Trust.

Absence of Trust -> Fear of Conflict -> Lack of Commitment -> Avoidance of Accountability -> Inattention to Results

(which should continue to Inattention to Results -> Lack of Learning from Difference from Expectations -> Open Loop System with no feedback and high-frequency, frenzied response)

It may sound contradictory how “Fear of Conflict” eliminated, and with increased conflict, teams function better. Trust me with the author, well-functioning teams are VERY NOISY.

This is one of the reasons why democracies are way noisier than autocracies.

Should read? Yes, but reading alone won’t be enough. It has to be practiced and imbibed.


The Fred Factor

This book is good. It isn’t good in the way Nyaaya is. It is good in the way Shrimad Bhagavad Geeta is.

This book isn’t a technical treatise. This book is a bunch of anecdotes and observations and recommendations.

That is why, like Geeta, this book should be read every now and then.

If you liked books like “The Man who Planted Trees” or “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, you will like this book more.

Fred is a postman of the author. An extra ordinary postman. The author analyses various behaviors and values that sets Fred apart from other postmen – and generalizes from there.

It is best described as “Chicken Soup for the Soul” for Corporate Life. One should read it every now and then to keep the heart warm – but too much of it and the world may deceive you.

However, if you are a leader, beware of the temptation to enforce this book for reading or practice! The truth behind the book is subtle. When a person of power even recommends it, the truth will die!

Should one read it? Yes.

How often? Once a year, probably near holidays.

Who Moved My Cheese?

Good read. Bigger fonts. Small size. Simple plot. Simple message. Gives vocabulary to describe response to change.

Through “a story within a story” Spencer Johnson tells simple message: Be Prepared for Change.

From literature point of view, I haven’t read many “a story within a story” plots in Western literature. Indians mastered it in Panchatantra and Hitopadesha. Arabs mastered it in Alif Layla – or Arabian Nights. This is an attempt to also yield Hitopadesha-esque moral weaving.

At times the author is able to create good humor.

However, prologue by Kenneth Blanchard is disproportionately bigger than the small story – and actually adds third story and makes the beginning of the first story very bore. My advice is to skip the prologue – and even the envelope story and go directly to the Cheese.

Must read once.

Talent is Overrated – Geoff Colvin

+ Scholarly book

– Becomes dry at times

+ New concept

– After a while feels repetitive, though it actually isn’t

+ Must read for parents

– Corporate analogy is a bit far-fetched

+ Frank

– yet, the most important downside of excellence in a field

+ Must read for any “tween” or her/his parent, provides guidance on raising kids talented

– May be misused to bring Confucian values to corporate – “Yes, it is bore. Go on working! It is good for you!”

Core idea:

  1. Talent isn’t inborn
  2. Passion isn’t inborn
  3. Innovation doesn’t strike but it grows (Probably against “Paradigm Shift” principle of Thomas Kuhn. Personally I have seen innovation strike and grow, both)
  4. Motivation is mostly extrinsic, slowly becomes intrinsic
  5. There is no “generic talent”. Talent develops for just a field for a person
  6. IQ helps in adjusting to new situations quicker, not firmer
  7. 10,000 days of Deliberate Practice (bore practice) delivers excellence
  8. Makes a compulsive case for starting arts and sports in childhood, business and science as early as possible
  9. Role of family (read parents) is highlighted
  10. Deliberate Practice =
    1. Early start +
    2. Need for a coach/teacher/guide/mentor +
    3. Repetitive, mentally demanding practice with ever stretching goals, increasingly becoming harder +
    4. Frequent feedback
  11. Results in “Expert behavior” like
    1. Seeing more patterns
    2. Gaining knowledge
    3. Developing vocabulary for various situations
    4. Being able to notice more and more meaningfully
    5. Being able to predict better
    6. Point to note is that chess experts were better than novices in remembering positions that may arise realistically – but as bad as novices for random positions
  12. Three models of Deliberate Practice:
    1. Music model – like sales pitch – have to be delivered as it is
    2. Chess model – like negotiation – situation identification
    3. Sports model – like mastering the routine tasks – so that there is more energy left for other tasks