Turning dysfunctional teams to functional ones

Turning dysfunctional teams to functional ones

Turning dysfunctional teams to functional onesOften you have a team of star players but they don’t win any games. The question then is why? How do you get the team to work together? Author of “Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams”, Roger Schwarz, explains on HBR how to build effective teams.

A team that is not working properly shows a number of symptoms, on results and on the relationship side. Firstly, results are poor due to the team’s inability to make high-quality decisions and implement actions quickly. Secondly, there is a lack of trust and commitment between colleagues and the team gets stuck, unable to move forward. In the end, the team lands up costing the organization money (Schwarz 2013).

How does a team become dysfunctional?

The question that then arises is “How does this happen?” It all boils down to mindset, as mindset drives behavior which in turn drives results. If a team operates in different mindsets, it creates disunity. The challenge then is how to shift mindsets so you can change behavior and consequently impact results positively (Schwarz 2013).

Making a team functional again

By addressing the problem from the results side and then working backwards, a leader can identify the causes responsible for the team’s dysfunction. Managers should talk about the results that the team needs to be getting and ask why they are not achieving their goals. If it is a matter of behavior, it’s the manager’s role to identify what type of behavior in the team is preventing it from reaching its results. It’s then the manager’s responsibility to shift an ineffective team mindset to a more effective one (Schwarz 2013).

The leader’s responsibility to be curious and transparent

In this process of team development, leaders have a central role and should strive to develop their own effective mindset, one that has curiosity and transparency as its core values. In opposition to such behavior is an ineffective mindset, one of unilateral control where the leader has no intention of wanting or making the team work together to achieve its results (Schwarz 2013).

In conclusion, leaders need to ask the question why their team is not achieving its results to get employee issues to surface. If leaders aren’t curious in knowing what their employees are thinking, they can only guess and make assumptions of why the team isn’t achieving its goals and the leader will consequently be unsuccessful in fulfilling the company’s strategy (Schwarz 2013).


Schwarz, Roger (2013). Podcast: Get a Dysfunctional Team Back on Track. Harvard Business Review. [Online] Available from: http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/11/get-a-dysfunctional-team-back-on-track/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+harvardbusiness+%28HBR.org%29 [Accessed on 15 November 2013]