We’ve all been placed on a teams, some of them are formally acknowledged and some informally. Regardless of how a team is formed, one way to view team dynamics that I always find helpful is to consider Tuckman’s Group Development Model.
In this model, four stages of a group are developed: forming, storming, norming, performing. The goal for teams is to get to the performing stage as quickly as possible and stay there as long as possible. As we all know, unexpected things happen with groups, and teams often move in and out the stages.
It’s interesting to think about how long teams need to be working together to get to the performing stage. Every team will operate differently, set up different ground rules and have various objectives. These stages serve as a rough shell of how a team should formulate, and how to become a high performance team.
The forming stage is when everyone is feeling everyone out and trying to take in the group dynamics. Typically, people try to avoid any type of conflict and although there is little conflict, the team is not productive as they may be ignoring issues.
“Storm mode” is never fun. We’ve all been there, conflict arises and people are challenging each others ideas. I’ve been in a few different groups that have been storming. Once the group had a near impossible conflict and required an outside facilitator to move us out of this stage. In other experiences, the group members have been able to quickly resolve conflicts and move forward. I’d say that storming, although an uncomfortable stage, is critical for any group. How conflict is managed will lead to the success of the group. If group members can constructively debate and confront issues and move out of the storming phase, the easier they will perform and meet objectives.
Once the dust settles on the storming phase, groups enter into the norming phase - in which conflict subsidies and groups start to get back on track. Group members make some sacrifices and are able to move towards their goals.
This is the goal for teams - get to the performing stage as quickly as possible. Here, team members are focused on a single objective, team members are able to get work done as a unit, conflict does not lead disruption of work and basically, they are on pace to meet their goals. This is such a great feeling for a team to be in this stage - everyone is working hard, trust is running through the team, and objectives are being met.
Understanding that these dynamics are in play can help you with your project management and your team dynamics. By thinking through these stages and how to avoid conflict and address it appropriately, project managers can create high performing teams and meet objectives.
What experience do you have with Tuckman’s stages? Have they been useful?
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