,

Building Effective Teams through the Tuckman Model – Is it Useful?

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.

Forming

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.

Storming

“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.

Norming

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.

Performing

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?



This post is brought to you by the GovLoop Project Management Council. The mission of this council is to provide you with information and resources to help improve government. Visit the GovLoop Project Management Council to learn more.

Leave a Comment

8 Comments

Leave a Reply

Profile Photo Corey McCarren

Interesting post. I’m not going to lie, for me the storming phase can be fun if it’s not something critical, it’s kind of like a game (My example would be Model United Nations). However in actual important projects I definitely agree, it is just stressful.

Reply
Profile Photo Bill Brantley

Very useful as I have incorporated the model into a handbook on building communities of practice. I remember when I first encountered the model as an undergraduate. Our group had to do a presentation on the four phases so we used clips from “The Breakfast Club” to illustrate the different stages.

Reply
Profile Photo Patrick Fiorenza

Thanks for the comments!

Bill, the “Breakfast Club” is a great example of how the stages work. Understanding the stages has really helped me focus while working in groups, it’s important not to obsess about what stage you are in, but if things aren’t going as planned with your team it really helps to identify the stage and develop a plan to work towards becoming a high performance team.

I had one professor who told me that “Anytime a new group member joins the team, you are likely to slip back into the storming phase.” It’s an interesting statement, and makes you realize that without managing the process of how a group functions, you may struggle to meet your product goals.

Reply
Profile Photo Jay Johnson

It’s extremely valuable to go into a team situation knowing that storning will occur and that it must be handled well in order to excell.

@Bill I love the “Breakfast Club” reference!

Reply
Profile Photo Patrick Fiorenza

Thanks for you comment, Jay – would have to agree. Knowing the source why a team is storming is critical to moving out of that stage. New members bring in a whole new dynamic for the team, as I said, need to manage the process (which can be pretty challenging!).

Reply
Profile Photo Joe Williams

In my role, I lead project teams that come together to solve a problem, then disband upon completion. Therefore, I’ve experienced the four stages (five if you add “adjournment” to the list) repeatedly, both positive and negative. What I’ve learned is that the outcome improves with preparation and proper facilitation. For instance, forming teams requires relationship building at the start, along with providing context. One way to accomplish this is by developing a team charter, norms of behavior and how the team will handle conflict as a team exercise. When the storming stage arises (and it will), the team can fall upon the norms of behavior and conflict rules as the means to navigate through that stage quickly. Treating the norming stage as a transition between storming and performing is the means to pass through it quickly, by giving feedback and updating the norms of behavior established in the forming stage. The performing stage is where the team hits its stride. Finally once the work is complete, the adjourning stage is where the team celebrates, captures lessons learned, and moves ahead. Hope this helps.

Reply
Profile Photo Patrick Fiorenza

Thanks for your comments Joe. I really like how you added in the “adjournment” phase – so important to capture lessons learned and how to improve future projects.

Reply