The five dysfunctions of a team program in Chiang Mai
Updated: Aug 12, 2018
Beunite was asked by AIPP Chiang Mai to conduct a three-day team building and training work shop at Away Suan Sawan Resort in Chiang Mai from 17th to 19th November 2014. The need for team work development was pointed out in the management and institutional development report under the section “weaknesses”:
Lack of systematic and targeted staff development and management
Frequent staff turnover
Team work affected by diverse cultures and expectation
The study was conducted by the development association. Based on this study, and in collaboration with Beunite, the following objectives were outlined:
To foster stronger inter-personal relationship and cohesiveness in the Secretariat
To ignite the spirit of achievement to achieve performance excellence.
To develop good working relationships between all members.
To reinforce the commitment to the goals and objectives of AIPP
To help develop all elements of team work including creativity, communication, trust, problem solving.
To help develop a high-performance team by encouraging shared commitment to common purpose, core values, communication norms, defined roles and responsibilities and a culture of mutual respect, accountability and responsibility.
The work shop was conducted at Away Suan Sawan Chiang Mai. Away Suan Sawan , is a conference and team-building resort situated in the tranquil Mae Rim Valley, a 30 minute drive from Chiang Mai International Airport. Away Suan Sawan consists of 47 rooms and villas and three conference facilities; the Orchid Room, the Bougainvillea Room and the Leelawadee Room.
The Orchid Room, 71 SM in size, is situated above the swimming pool and has a lovely view to the mountains.
The Bougainvillea room 310 SM in size, is situated next to the restaurant and a suitable access to the restaurant and the garden. Leelawadee Room, 53 SM in size, is adjoining the Bougainvillea Room with access to the restaurant and garden.
One day prior to the start of the training, the Beunite head facilitator inspected Bougainvillea and Leelawadee Rooms. He was informed by the resort that Leelawadee room was booked by the client. The surcharge for using the larger room (Leelawadee) was 5000 Baht. Beunite decided that Bougainvillea room was suitable for the work shop. Bougainvillea was large enough for 18 people on U-shape with a small break out sofa area near the entrance.
The second break-out room was in fact an outdoor Sala. Upon request, the resort management gave permission to use Bougainvillea room for some activities on day one complimentary. There was on outdoor activity in front of the conference facilities and one lawn further down the road towards the entrance. Beunite had permission to use all the outdoor lawns for team building activities complimentary.
Dysfunction 1 – Absence of trust
Delegates arrived between nine and nine-thirty in the morning and the work shop started at half past ten, about thirty minutes behind schedule. The first topic was Lencioni’s Absence of Trust including four activities split into two categories.
Intimate physical team building exercises that includes touch
Intimate mental team building exercises that include revealing personal information and get to know each other
The first and second activity Trust fall and Eye contact fall under the category A and the third and fourth activity Get to know your colleagues quiz and Personal Histories Exercise fall under the category B.
“Trust Fall” was conducted on the activity lawn, just outside the meeting room. Trust Fall is a warm-up and ice-breaker activity and ideal for introducing Lencioni’s dysfunction 1, absence of trust. Delegates standing in groups of three, and one person deliberately allows themselves to fall, relying on the other members of the group to catch the person.
Delegates were taking turns and clearly enjoying themselves in the process of catching and falling. Back in the conference room delegates were asked how they were feeling and lively participated in the debate. The discussion moved on to the psychology of catching and falling to neuroscience of building trust.
After a 20-minutes discussion, Beunite facilitators introduced themselves and asked the students to do the same. Eighteen delegates from AIPP Chiang Mai participated in the work-shop. Delegates were from five different countries; Thailand, Philippines, Burma, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The program continued with Eye-Contact. In eye contact, delegates stand in pairs facing each other and staring into each other’s eye for 90 seconds. Eye contact is a very intimate activity illustrating the importance of eye contact.
Some members were remarkably uneasy with such close personal contact. This was expressed by laughing, giggling, hand fidgeting, moving from one foot to the other, playing with one’s hair or simply not withholding the partner’s stare.
This exercise is intentionally designed to put delegates in a position of vulnerability and for students to learn to embrace vulnerability to strengthen trust within the team. In the debriefing, the teacher recapped the importance of vulnerability-based trust as a foundation of team work.
The facilitator split the group into two teams and each team was asked to reflect about trust within their organization. At the end of the three minutes each team was asked to write their Trust score on the flip chart between 1 (low trust) and 5 (high trust). Further, the five dysfunctions assessment results were published on the screen.
A score of 3.75 and above is considered high. The team has created an environment where vulnerability and openness are the norm.
A score of 3.25 – 3.74 is considered medium. The team may need to get more comfortable being vulnerable and open with one another about individual strengths and weaknesses, mistakes and needs for help.
A score of 3.24 and below is considered low. The team lacks necessary levels of openness and vulnerability about individual strengths and weaknesses, mistakes and needs for help.
Students agreed that team member lacked trust in each other and that more work needed to be done. An important foundation of trust was laid in the Get to know your student’s quiz. The quiz consisted of three simple questions to be answered by each one about themselves and about all other delegates in the team. The questions were:
Where (which country / city) did you spend most of your childhood in?
How many siblings you have?
What’s your favorite hobby?
Maximum score was 54 and students scored between (censored for privacy reasons) and (censored for privacy reasons). When asked if delegates were surprised about the low score and what this meant they answered in unison yes, they were indeed surprised not really understanding what it meant.
Team building professionals are not surprised at such a low score. It is common that colleagues work for years in the same department (and sometimes at the next desk) yet do not have much idea about each other’s private lives. They are not aware about how little they know about each other.
In the debriefing, Beunite facilitator asked whether delegates were spending time on a private basis, whether they did some frequent socializing or networking outside of work. The answer was yes, AIPP organized a frequent luncheon for all team members to join and have lunch together, yet some delegates seem not to make use of this opportunity often enough (in an exercise on day two some delegates received feed-back and were encouraged to join this occasion more frequently).
The last trust-enhancing activity was Personal Histories exercise. This exercise is designed to become more comfortable with vulnerability within the team and to open up to colleagues.
Students were asked to think 10 minutes about one personal story of their choice that they were going to tell the rest of the team. The story was between 30 seconds and 1 minute long and should be about their childhood, family and relationship with a spouse, friend or about business.
The story should include any acts that caused fear, shame or embarrassments and that are slightly uncomfortable to reveal. The stories revealed by the students were truly jaw-dropping. Some were about heartbreak, some about growing up in extreme poverty, some about being bullied in school. Some were scary, some funny and some extremely painful. Two delegates broke down in tears in the process of telling their stories.
The 40-minutes activity turned into one and a half hours with a rejuvenating effect. Students listened actively and asked questions and the level empathy among colleagues was rising. The exercise gained momentum and the team created bonds of mature proportions. What seemed to be loose and individual players have turned into a cohesive team in a matter of two hours.
This exercise is clearly designed for students to raise awareness that everybody is imperfect and most of us have some skeletons in the closet. Past experiences shape the way we are today. Past experiences shape our actions, our thoughts and our behaviors.
In the debriefing, Beunite facilitators advised to treat the newly acquired knowledge with highest respect and care. It only needs one person to use the information for their personal gain to destroy trust within the team that was built and maintained over a long period of time. The last message was never to stop socializing, bonding and being vulnerable in the team. Trust building is a long and sometimes painful yet necessary process.
Dysfunction 2 – Fear of Conflict
The topic of Fear of Conflict was introduced by power point. The students were encouraged to elicit characteristics of teams that fear conflicts and characteristics of teams that engage in open conflict. Two examples of this:
Teams that fear conflict have boring meetings
Teams that engage in open conflict discuss controversial topics that are critical for team success.
The key message was that teams become dysfunctional when they are unable to productively deal with conflict. All meaningful relationships require productive conflict for them to grow. Healthy conflict occurs when people talk about the issue at hand avoiding personal attacks, looking for the best solution for the team.
Teams tend to avoid conflict often replacing it with an artificial harmony. In sub-teams, students were again asked to write their Conflict score on the flip chart and present it to the rest of the team.
Average score of 3.75 and above is considered high. The team is comfortable engaging in unfiltered discussion around important topics.
Average score of 3.25-374. Is considered medium. The team may need to learn to engage in more unfiltered discussion around key issues.
Average score of 3.24 and below is considered low. The team is not comfortable engaging in unfiltered discussion around important topics.
On power point, Beunite facilitator a graph with the breaking point between conflict of ideas and personal conflicts and asked the students to explain the chart. One student explained the chart thoroughly and explained how conflicts of ideas may lead to personal conflicts.
Trust is the foundation of great teams and it’s the building blocks of trust that makes team conflict possible. The conflict case study of Omilia Co. Ltd. a fictional company was perfect to illustrate this.
Omilia Co. Ltd. consist of 6 team members, Martin (CEO), Eric (Head of Finance), Jane (HR & Marketing), Jenifer (Trainee), Lee (Admin & Secretary) and Mira (Part time). The case study meeting went like this: Martin, the CEO and chairman is leading the meeting. Jane the head of Marketing was presented her new marketing plan and asked to allocate more money to her department. She apparently did a long and thorough talk. She suggested to move budget from the staff outing. The other employees were quiet in the meeting and some were talking to each other silently. But they appeared unhappy. They didn’t participate fully in the meeting and they didn’t engage in open conflicts of ideas. The meeting was closed yet the decision not clear.
Students were asked to reflect upon the meeting and figure out what went wrong. They were encouraged to give suggestions of how to run the meeting in a better way and how to bring conflict to the open.
Further, students slipped into the roles of Martin, Jane & Co. and were instructed to plan their meeting, this time as a real act and with more open ideological conflict. Students did a good job, they engaged each other in open conflict yet on a superficial level and both teams came up with a compromise. The underlying conflict was not bought to the open entirely.
It would have been interesting to find out whether Jane was avoiding socializing with the rest of the team and the reasons behind her avoidance. Which unfortunately, none of the students did.
Yet, a compromise can sometimes be the right solution to a problem, unfortunately often it isn’t. So, the facilitator asked the students to reflect more deeply about the subject and think whether the compromise is the best solution. And what would happen if there wasn’t a compromise, if the decision would go clearly against somebody’s will. If they believed the decision was wrong. Would they still buy-into the decision, would they still wholeheartedly carry out the decision, would the team be more important than the individual ego?
Some questions were left unanswered, yet the message was delivered.
Dysfunction 3 – Lack of commitment
After some hours in the conference room, the program continued outdoors. Group Juggle, a light and lively outdoor activity was just perfect. Students were asked to stand in a circle. Their objective was to pass a tennis ball around the circle by following two important rules.
Never pass to the person standing next to you
Never pass it to the same person twice before returning to the starting point.
After having built a considerable degree of trust in the previous exercises and after having overcome a fear of conflict, discussion was livelier and more active than expected. Students discussed different strategies, then practiced and within 15 minutes accomplished their task. Back in the meeting room I asked what kind of mistakes happened in the process of achieving their task. Delegates elicited:
Lack of skills (couldn’t catch the ball)
Lack of clarity (no plan – threw the ball to the wrong person)
Lack of buy-in (lack of concentration and commitment – didn’t think it was a life and death situation).
Students reflected upon the three types of errors and how they could be avoided. Delegates further were encouraged to pinpoint the one type of mistake that in their opinion were the hardest to overcome in a team environment. Their rating was like this:
Lack of clarity (most difficult to overcome)
Lack of skills (second most difficult to overcome)
Lack of buy-in (easiest to overcome).
While all three types of mistakes were difficult to avoid, in a team environment its most likely lack of buy-in (and probably second most difficult would be lack of clarity).
And the teacher explained why in terms of an analogy:
There are two football teams standing in the world cup final. Both teams have excellent individual players with extraordinary skills. Both have world-class coaches and both team’s tactical plans were outstanding. Which team is going to win the world cup? Answer: The team that is most likely to win the world cup is the team that wants to win more badly. It’s the team whose players are more committed to success (luck may also play a role in sport).
If there are two companies with similar skills and strategic plans, it’s the company that aligns people towards the common goal and whose team members are more ambitious and more committed to success. It’s the buy-in that makes the difference. It was late, the delegates tired and the programm went a slightly behind schedule. It was by 4 p.m. that coffee break was served.
Dysfunction 5 –Inattention to results
After coffee break Beunite facilitator decided to skip the 4th Dysfunction, “Avoidance of Accountability” which included a rather demanding, feed-back exercise and proceeded with the 5th dysfunction, “Inattention to results” (the 4th dysfunction was postponed to day two).
Balloon balance is the quintessential exercise to illustrate the importance of setting team targets and to emphasize how often team underestimate their ability to achieve a goal that originally seems unachievable.
Teams of eight participants were asked to set a target of how many people they thought could balance on twenty balloons without any person touching the floor. Teams set their targets on the flip chart and proceeded with the activity.
After a practice session of approx. 20 minutes, the first team’s attempt was three participants. The second team managed to balance six people on balloons. Both teams have exceeded their targets. Teams held each other accountable and team members did not look out for their own interests, rather the interests of the team.
This is a healthy process. AIPP showed signs of improvement, it placed the team result as the most important goal. By placing the team’s results first, the team became more results oriented.
Day 2 Dysfunction 4 – Lack of commitment
Day two started with Moonball exercise, a simple yet powerful warm up activity. Teams were split into two sub-teams and each sub-team were standing in a circle. An inflatable beach ball was passed around in the circle, while each participant was to touch the ball ones only before passing it on to the next person. The objective was to keep the ball in the air the longest.
After a thorough debriefing the importance of setting team targets and achieving team results (on day 1), the delegates were left without specific instruction to do so into the game. Unfortunately, none of the delegates were setting team targets. This was addressed in the debriefing and the facilitator encouraged the students to set high target. By setting high targets the team would be forced to make changes in the strategy and get more commitment out of its members.
This was perhaps not communicated in a clear way and confusion was arising. Joan Carling, the secretary general was asking whether goals should not be set realistic and attainable in order not to demotivate the workforce. It was perhaps important to distinguish between long term goals (like vision) and short-term goals and between tasks that are well known and tasks that are not. In an exercise like balloon balance, it’s hard to imagine for a team (who has never plaid this game before) how many people can be balanced on 20 balloons.
There were teams in the past (like Atlas Copco) that set their targets very high (8). They accomplished to have ten people balancing on the balloons because they didn’t give up. Their commitment to reaching their goal was intense. In the example of AIPP, one team set their target to 3 and reached 4. Although they reached their target and were happy having achieved it, they cannot be considered a high-performance team.
Setting low targets triggers low commitment, setting high targets triggers high commitment.
The facilitator drew the correlation between targets and results on the flip chart and by having four set of data (from two teams and two activities), the relationship between target and result we remarkable. High targets follow high results. Low targets follow low results (as an average).
Taking some time to debate result issues, the review of dysfunction one (absence of trust) and two (lack of commitment) was done briefly.
Dysfunction 4 – Avoidance of accountability
After the coffee break, delegates were split into two teams and one team was seated in the sofa area of the meeting room and one team in the garden.
The team effectiveness exercise is a simple, yet powerful feed-back exercise for mature teams. Delegates were asked to think about the single most important behavioral characteristics or quality demonstrated by themselves as well as by each person of the team that contribute to the strength of the team and the single most important behavioral characteristics or quality demonstrated by themselves and each person of the team that may derail the team.
In brief; this was a strength and weaknesses feed-back session.
Students were taking this exercise conscientiously serious and the 30-minute exercise was turning into an hour. After that, the students were asked to pinpoint their weakness and to outline a mini-action plan for improvement. They were encouraged to reflect about the lead-indicators (factors that leads to the weakness) and how to eliminate them.
Feed-back that was received (positive and negative) by everyone was presented in front of the entire team first, after that students made a commitment to work on their weaknesses. Team members that avoids accountability have either not bought into a clear team objective or have not reached clarity upon acceptable social behaviors within the team.
Although some students dreaded giving feed-back prior to the exercise, delegates from AIPP were remarkably confident giving critical feed-back to each other. It’s a sign of a mature team to hold each other accountable without worry even among members of different cultural backgrounds and hierarchies.
Chiang Mai Cultural Discovery
The afternoon was more of a light and lively nature. Delegates were split into two teams and each team was handed out a map of Chiang Mai and a set of instructions. Teams were asked to pinpoint fifteen locations in and around Chiang Mai by solving cryptic clues.
Wat Phra Singh One of the oldest and most beautiful temples in Chiang Mai dating back to The Mangrai Dynasty in 1345.
Chiang Mai Post Office Located on Charoen Muang Road, just around the corner from Chiang Mai railway station.
Three Kings Monument Located in the center of the walled city. The monument depicts King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, his contemporary and reportedly good friend King Ramkamhaeng of Sukothai and King Ngam Muang of Payao.
Chiang Mai Gate Market One of the very few markets in the world that are open 24-hours a day and 365 days a week.
Wat Chiang Man Built in 1297 as the first temple in Chiang Mai and used by King Mangrai as a camp while building his new capital city Chiang Mai.
Min Muang Market Located near the Tapae Gate and busy with backpackers year-round.
Iron Bridge The Iron Bridge is a duplicate of the oldest and most historic Narawat Bridge of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Post Office The first post office in Northern Thailand and a historic building built in the early 21st Century.
Pun Tao Gong Temple The oldest Chinese Temple of Chiang Mai.
Worarot Market Chiang Mai’s largest market also referred to as China Town.
Wat Ket Karam A Buddhist temple built in 1428 during the Phra Jao Sam Fang Kaen era.
Healing family foundation The Foundation produces and sells handicrafts and employs people with intellectual disabilities.
San Pak Kuay Market – A bustling market in Chiang Mai.
Catholic Church Chiang Mai’s first Church located near to the Iron bridge.
Chiang Mai Railway Station Built in 1922, now serving 800,000 passengers per year to 10 different destinations.
Teams planned their journey thoroughly prior to departure and continued strategizing en route. Each team assigned one person to communicate to the Song Taew driver to take them to their destination. The ride from Mae Sa Valley took approx. 30 minutes and approaching Chiang Mai City, the teams decided to split up into sub-teams to visit different locations simultaneously. One sub-team continued with the Song Taew while other small groups of delegates continued with public transportation and on foot. Arriving at the destination, teams were asked one of the following challenges:
A question challenge – Answering a question about the destination
A picture challenge – Taking a picture of the entire team
A shopping challenge – Negotiating and purchasing rare cultural artifacts
Prior to splitting up the delegates agreed upon a time to meet all together at INA House in order to continue their return journey to Away Suansawan.
And indeed, their strategy worked well. One team arrived at INA house early. They were greeted warmly, and the facilitator was asked if he would like to join a tour around the guest house which was accepted gladly.
INA house is run by AIPP to accommodate delegates from NGO’s around the country who travel to Chiang Mai for seminars and work-shops. The guest house is predominantly run by indigenous people. It consists of 2 Double Deluxe Rooms, 1 Mini Suite Room, 2 Triple Deluxe Rooms and 6 Triple Sharing Rooms.
In addition, it has meeting / conference facilities, a mini library, airport transportation and free WIFI for all guests.
Teams continued their journey and shortly before dark, they returned to Away Suan Sawan Resort. The debriefing started at 6.45 p.m. in the restaurant and Beunite facilitator was briefly reviewing the destinations and challenges and announced the winning team.
Day 3 Review the five dysfunctions concept
The warm up activity on the last day of the training was Jump Rope (also referred to as skipping rope). Splitting the eighteen delegates into two teams of nine, the objective of the activity was for teams to do as many groups jumps as possible with at least six team members. The game was taking place in the resort’s garden.
Delegates first discussed a strategy then tested their strategy. Their first change in strategy was figuring out that jumping with a long rope was difficult so they made the rope shorter. The second change in strategy was to move from the lawn to the concrete which made swinging easier. Then they tried two approaches:
Jumping with all delegates at once standing in the center of the rope.
Jumping with one delegate at a time and adding more and more delegates until the entire group was jumping.
The decision was taken that jumping with one delegate at a time was more likely to work. Back in the meeting room the facilitator asked each team what their objective was. Student looked puzzled. One person said it was to beat the other team. One person said they had to do as many group jumps as possible.
So, the facilitator further asked whether the team was happy with their achievement. One of the students said yes, the other said no. The facilitator then asked whether teams had set an objective of how many group jumps they wanted to achieve. The answer was no, and when asking for a reason the answer was that it was not part of the instructions.
The illusion (or perhaps assumption) that teams were competing (although this was never part of the instructions) prohibited the two teams to work together, share experiences and resources and to choose the best six people (from both teams together) to jump.
The facilitator finally pointed out that one person was happy with the achievement and the other in the team was not. Can it be that in a football team one person in the team is happy if the team wins and another is not?
So, the students were asked to do some introspection. One student came up that they had not agreed upon what they wanted to achieve. There was no consensus among team members what success was, what their target and objective was.
What a high-performance team would do in this situation (which AIPP regrettably did not), is from eighteen delegates, choosing the absolute best six for jumping and the best two for swinging the rope.
Nevertheless, Beunite is happy with the progress of the team. Coffee break was at hand and the five dysfunctions seminar came to an end. The learning-focused part of the work-shop was over, yet the fun-part was about to start: