Team Development

Understanding the Stages of Team Formation

Forming a team takes time, and members often go through recognizable stages as they change from being a collection of strangers to a united group with common goals. Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model describes these stages. When you understand it, you can help your new team become effective more quickly.

The Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing model of group development was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, who maintained that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results. This model has become the basis for subsequent models. The Tuckman Model states that there are four stages of project team development that are inevitable in order for a team to reach a point where they are functioning effectively together and delivering high quality results. The graph below depicts how a team’s effectiveness varies depending on their state.

tuckmanmodel

Forming

Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.

tuckmanforming

The team meets and learns about the opportunities and challenges, and then agrees on goals and begins to tackle the tasks. Team members tend to behave quite independently. In this stage, most team members are positive and polite. Some are anxious, as they haven’t fully understood what work the team will do. Others are simply excited about the task ahead.

The characteristic which best describes the team at this point is a working group. As leader, you play a dominant role at this stage, because team members’ roles and responsibilities aren’t clear. This stage can last for some time, as people start to work together, and as they make an effort to get to know their new colleagues.

The forming stage of any team is important because the members of the team get to know one another, exchange some personal information, and make new friends. This is also a good opportunity to see how each member of the team works as an individual and how they respond to pressure.

Storming

Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict.

tuckmanstorming

Next, the team moves into the Storming Phase, where people start to push against the boundaries established in the forming stage. This is the stage where many teams fail. Tolerance of each team member and their differences should be emphasized; without tolerance and patience the team will fail. This phase can become destructive to the team and will lower motivation if allowed to get out of control. Some teams will never develop past this stage; however, disagreements within the team can make members stronger, more versatile, and able to work more effectively as a team.

The team reaches their lowest performance in this phase but is a natural step towards becoming a high performing team. At this point we can consider that we have a pseudo-team.

Storming often starts where there is a conflict between team members’ natural working styles. People may work in different ways for all sorts of reasons but, if differing working styles cause unforeseen problems, they may become frustrated.

Storming can also happen in other situations. For example, team members may challenge your authority, or jockey for position as their roles are clarified. Or, if you haven’t defined clearly how the team will work, people may feel overwhelmed by their workload, or they could be uncomfortable with the approach you’re using.

Some may question the worth of the team’s goal, and they may resist taking on tasks. Supervisors of the team during this phase may be more accessible, but tend to remain directive in their guidance of decision-making and professional behaviour. Normally tension, struggle and sometimes arguments occur.

Norming

Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence on one another and of strength to be derived by unity.

tuckmannorming

Gradually, the team moves into the Norming Stage. This is when people start to resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues’ strengths, and respect your authority as a leader.

The danger here is that members may be so focused on preventing conflict that they are reluctant to share controversial ideas.

Now that your team members know one another better, they may socialize together, and they are able to ask one another for help and provide constructive feedback. People develop a stronger commitment to the team goal, and you start to see good progress towards it.

At this stage you can consider that you have a potential team. The performance of the team keeps increasing and goes past the initial point from the forming stage.

Performing

When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.

tuckmanperforming

The team reaches the Performing Stage, when hard work leads, without friction, to the achievement of the team’s goal. The structures and processes that you have set up support this well.

Team performance increases significantly and the team goes through the stage of a real team towards a high performing team.

As leader, you can delegate much of your work, and you can concentrate on developing team members.

It feels easy to be part of the team at this stage, and people who join or leave won’t disrupt performance.

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