Team formation is vital for any successful company, it takes time for people to develop the teamwork skills needed – this often includes moving through different stages as they adapt to becoming part of a new team. Making this process easier is crucial if you want the best results.
Leading psychologist Bruce Tuckman formulated a model that describes the typical evolution of a team over time called the forming, storming, norming, and performing phases. Knowing how to help people move from forming to becoming productive quickly is key.
Tuckman’s model is a well-known theory that helps us study teams and how they evolve. The model consists of the four stages of the team development: forming, storming, norming and performing.
Forming stage: This stage is about getting people together and making sure they are on the same page with regards to expectations, goals, and methods. You can also say that this stage is all about starting to get to know each other better. Team members may be feeling anxious, excited, or curious about what’s coming next. But no matter how they feel, they’ll rely on the team leader for guidance.
The goals of a group should be clear from the start, so a team charter is a good way to establish the objectives for this stage. Along with these objectives, helping team members set personal goals can help them see how their work will contribute to the success of the company as well.
Storming stage: People are sort of throwing ideas around without taking the time to think them through, which can lead to conflicts. It’s typical for things in this stage not to go smoothly because people are not used to working together yet.
The storming stage is where team members start to push against the norms that have been established. They often clash with one another as they let their true personalities shine through.
At this stage, members of the team may challenge your authority or management style or could even question the team’s mission. If tensions aren’t addressed early on, small issues can build up and result in serious confrontations. If roles & responsibilities haven’t been specified yet, some employees might start feeling stressed about their workloads and/or feel like they’re not making any progress.
Storming can make or break a team, so it’s important to have processes in place to assist with tracking tasks. To help create team trust, be available to ask for help on tasks. That way you’ll give people the opportunity to reflect on things they can do for themselves and what they need from other team members.
You shouldn’t ignore team conflict but should try to find ways to fix it together. With a little friction, you might be able to identify inefficiencies and work together on improving them – which will ultimately lead to innovation. Even though it may be difficult, try to make sure that quieter team members have a chance to share their thoughts. In order to stop louder team members from dominating the conversation, ask everybody for their input and listen.
Norming stage: When people start to understand each other better, it becomes easier for people to see their differences, value one another’s strengths, and follow the manager’s authority as a leader. The team will feel closer and open more to one another. They won’t be afraid to ask for help and offer constructive criticism. They’ll feel a stronger commitment towards the team goals and will make better progress towards them.
With internet now being the main means of communication, it becomes even more important for managers to make sure their employees are still meeting physically. These exercises could be anything from joining a book club to coordinating lunch breaks. They’re particularly important for new teams. Take this opportunity to open communication with your team. Start by asking them about their personal goals and how they plan on accomplishing them.
Performing stage: With the team becoming used to each other and having a shared schedule, they’ll be able to work fast and efficiently. This will allow them to meet their goals and the policies and structures set out by managers support this well.
Judith Stein of MIT’s HR department discusses this phase of the process, “Roles on the team can become more fluid as needed. Members might all take on various roles & responsibilities, and differences are appreciated. This is often an exciting stage for members of the team.”
As the leader, you can delegate much work and instead focus on helping your team members grow. At this stage, it really is easy to be part of the team. Any changes in the team or people leaving won’t disrupt performance.
However, Tuckman’s model isn’t a one-way street – teams may go back and forth between stages. For example, when you find yourself in the performing stage, keep monitoring your team’s progress in case it slips back. For instance, a new team member might disrupt the group dynamic, or a new business direction might mean you have to rethink your team roles and goals.
Recommended reading for team formation:
- Forming Storming Norming Performing: Successful Communication in Groups and Teams: by Donald B. Egolf
- Stein, J. Using the Stages of Team Development