Key Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the positive impact of effective teamwork and management on your business’s productivity.
  • Learn about the model introduced in 1965 by psychologist, Dr Bruce Tuckman, which outlines the five stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.
  • Demonstrate that you can manage issues as they arise which enables your team to progress through each stage with ease.
  • Recognise the need to regularly review your team’s achievements to ensure consistently high performance and engagement levels.

Article

It is well known that most people prefer to work in teams, and if managed well teams can offer huge benefits to both the employees and the business. However, the effectiveness of a team in a small business can have a large impact on overall productivity. Therefore, it is essential that all business owners and managers learn to manage teams. The following model, which outlines the stages in team development, gives a valuable insight into what is required as a leader throughout each stage in the process of team development.

The model

Psychologist, Dr Bruce Tuckman, first introduced this model in 1965. The original model outlines four stages of team development, what behaviours can be seen as the team matures and develops competency, and what role the leader plays in each stage. Tuckman added, around 10 years later, a fifth stage, “adjourning”, and this is sometimes referred to as the “mourning stage”.[wlm_ismember]

Teamdev

Forming

This is a period of testing and orientation as members learn about each other and the expectations of the group. In this stage most team members tend to be polite and will defer to authority. You may find some team members are a little anxious and others quite excited about what is to come.

As a leader it is important to recognise that this stage is important as team members get to know each other and start to work together. In this stage it is essential to give clear directions to individuals and the group as they are not yet sure of their roles and responsibilities. This is the time when expectations are set, and you might find some team members use this as a time to test boundaries of behaviour.

Storming

The storming stage can make or break a team. It can be a frustrating stage where there can be conflict and disagreement between team members. There may be competition between members for various roles in the team. It is important to remember that this storming phase is normal for any team and once it has worked through it, the team will start working more effectively. It is during this stage that the group starts to establish team norms for appropriate behaviour and standards.

As a leader it is important that you remain positive and guide the team through the storming stage. It may be helpful to explain this team development process to help team members understand that what they are going through is normal when forming new teams. As a leader you may need to step in to help the team establish their structures and processes. However, remember that  your role is as a facilitator rather than a dictator, and teams will develop their own structures and processes.

Norming

During the norming stage the team begins to develop a sense of cohesion as roles are established and team objectives are agreed upon. Differences are sorted out as team members get to know each other and appreciate each other’s strengths. The team starts to operate within the agreed norms, and roles within the team become more established.

As a leader this is the time to step back and allow the team to develop and take responsibility. It is likely that there may be some regression to the storming stage when challenges arise or if behaviours stray from the agreed norms. Team-building exercises can be helpful at this stage in enhancing cohesion within the team.

Performing

By this stage, team members have begun to operate with efficiency. They are able to resolve conflicts and deal with challenges effectively. There is a high level of trust between team members and they are committed to the goals of the group. High-performing teams need little from you as a leader as they become largely self-directed.

Adjourning

This is the stage when the team for one reason or another is disbanded. It may be that a project has come to an end or the group is restructured. If the team has worked well together for some time this can be a difficult process for team members who feel a real sense of loss. It is important as a leader to recognise the achievements of the team and to understand the impact that disbanding the team may have on individuals.

How long does the process take?

There is no firm answer to this question as it will often depend of the complexity of the task or project and the make-up of the team. One thing that is certain is, if as a leader you guide your team through the process, they will reach the performing stage much faster.

Understanding the process that all teams go through will allow you to not just be alert to potential issues but will enable you to form strategies to move the team through each stage. While we suggest that once the team is performing you can take a step back and allow them to get on with the job. It is important, however, to regularly review progress to ensure that high performance is ongoing. This also allows you to delegate additional tasks and most importantly to communicate positive feedback as this will keep engagement levels high.[/wlm_ismember]

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