An exercise from 5 dysfunctions of a team

· February 21, 2016

I have a couple of times been recommended the book The five dysfunctions of a team and the last couple of weeks I finally got around to read it.

The book is really great and worth reading. In this post I wanted to talk about a very simple exercise that we used in our team the other day.


First of all; I love the book. It’s another of the those text books that is a novel. In this case a very well-written, well-developed story about a new CEO that enters a startup. The company have some really good people in their management team, but their failure to work together as a team hurts the company.

The rest of the book is devoted to how the heroine (Kathryn) helps the management team to really become a team and not just a bunch of people happen to work together.

It’s of course based on the author’s, Patrick Lencioni, ideas and experience, but presented so subtle and engrossing in the story that you almost don’t notice it.

A simple exercise

The last part of the book is a little bit more like a normal text book where the ideas that is presented in the story is more developed and given some practical tips too.

I picked up one of those exercises as an initial “get-to-know-each-other” meeting.

Our setup

We have a couple of teams put together at my current client. Just as in the story they are all brilliant people, but they have just been tossed together - they are not yet a team.

For this exercise I got the opportunity to run with 2 teams.

The foundation

The idea of the exercise is to get to know the people you are working with a little bit better. Often people can work together for years, without knowing much about each others lives outside work.

It’s easier to trust people that you know better, is the underlying idea of the exercise.

How we ran it

First of all I went “off-site”. In our case that meant walking across the street to a coffee shop. But it was a good move I think, since we couldn’t be disturbed. Also it was a little bit “strange” being in this new environment. It’s something that we, strangely enough, will remember.

The actual exercise was really simple; answer a few unobtrusive questions about yourself that makes me feel that I know more about you.

Here’s the questions we ran with, right out of the book:

  • How many siblings do you have?
  • What is your hometown? And how big is it?
  • What was your first job?
  • What was your worst job? Why was it bad?
  • What are you hobbies?
  • What were your childhood challenges?

Of course everyone was free to skip questions that felt uncomfortable to answer in public.


This simple exercise actually made our knowledge about each other whole person much wider. I learned a lot about people that I’ve worked with for 10 years.

I think that going forward this knowledge will be really valuable to have as we work tightly together.

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