Stages of team development
What’s a team? How about ‘a group of people working together to achieve a common goal or objective’? How does that sound – not bad? And if you like the definition, do you have a team? If the answer is no, then how do you get one? Questions, questions! Let’s look at some answers!
In 1965, Bruce Tuckman shared his 4 stage theory of team development with the world. Poetry lovers were ecstatic, as all the stages rhyme! Here’s the model:
Stage 1: Forming
The birth of a team! A new team is brought together, probably due to business needs – it may be a permanent or temporary team. Initially there is a lack of clarity regarding the team’s goals and individual roles and responsibilities. Team members experience some excitement, but mainly fear and uncertainty about the future. Productivity is, unsurprisingly, zero. The leader’s role is to provide as much information as possible, clarifying goals and roles, managing expectations, giving the team direction, but also legitimising anxieties and reassuring them that it’s all going to be ok. Let’s get this team up and running!
Stage 2: Storming
A turbulent stage in the life of any team! Some teams never get past this stage. Thanks to the leader’s interventions, some team members are happy and settle down to work – but not everybody. A pecking order has been established, and some people are not happy with where they ended up. They question the leader’s authority and meetings are plagued by sarcastic and unhelpful comments. Cliques form and conflicts arise – the team becomes polarised. Productivity plummets. The leader’s role here is to reinforce the team’s goals, discuss conflict-related issues and find solutions, and remind people they are part of a team and should act as one.
Stage 3: Norming
Norming has broken (sorry)! Differences have been resolved, people accept they are part of a team and are starting to work well together. Productivity is on the way up. This is clearly a good place to be and the leader’s role is to reinforce this by delegating tasks whenever possible, delivering regular feedback (both positive and constructive), and providing training and development so staff have the skill and the will to do a great job. This should create the momentum to carry the team to stage 4:
Stage 4: Performing
Often referred to as an HPT (High Performing Team), the team is self-sufficient and there is a high degree of autonomy. Team members support each other and enjoy working together. Productivity is very high. The leader may adopt an ‘eyes on, hands off’ approach – monitoring the team’s progress and only intervening when necessary. Unnecessary interference would not be appreciated! The leader must also ensure the team does not become stale or bored – members must be kept energised and excited by the setting of stretching goals. It’s not what can they achieve, it’s what can’t they?
A final note of caution
If you have created a performing team, then well done! But please bear in mind that once your team has reached stage 4, maintaining that position can be the hard part! Teams can regress – for example, personnel changes, either minor or major, can cause the team to fall back and you may end up storming again, or even back at the forming stage! Monitor your team and be aware of which stage they are at. Then, implement the necessary actions to get them to where you want them to be. Good luck!