Team development is a crucial part of any organisation, especially a project-based organisation. However, it can be challenging to form a productive team.
Often, managers are overwhelmed with bringing together the most productive and compatible minds to handle a project. While a good team can make things easier, a bad team that is not cooperative can make things worse. Considering the importance of team development, leaders and managers should have a high degree of skill and emotional intelligence for team development.
One such theory of team development has been given by Dr Bruce Tuckman, a psychologist who categorises phases of team development into 5 stages, although he gave only four phases initially. The fifth phase was added later.
This article will discuss each of these stages in detail by exploring the qualities that are typically associated with each stage.
Four Stages of Team Development
Understanding the stages of growth and realising that each team member has a significant role to play at each level is crucial to building a healthy and effective team. Tuckman (1965) identified four stages of team development, including Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.
Each stage establishes the team’s composition, purpose, and interaction, leading to tension and disagreements. Tuckman’s model provides insight into teams’ intricacies and interplays over time. Each stage has unique characteristics, significance, challenges, and opportunities.
Now let’s briefly understand each stage in detail:
The very first stage of team development is the forming stage. Under this stage, the group members get to know each other. Team members “test the water” to identify the group’s behaviour. Members typically say that they need to agree on their aims, determine their first objectives, and create ground rules. During this time, the members look for guidance from the leader. Tuckman linked the formation stage to the time exhibited by young infants in terms of orientation and dependence. The ensemble is usually at its finest during this period.
At this point, most members of the group are exceedingly courteous and still very optimistic about the future. Until the team dynamics and duties have been established, the team leader often assumes the responsibility of directing the members of the group. Team goals, ground rules, and individual responsibilities may be discussed during Tuckman’s formation phase, but it is doubtful that the team will be high-performing at this point in time.
During the forming stage, issues like lack of cohesion, uncertainty, and leader reliance can arise, but creating a cohesive atmosphere can define team goals.
In this phase of team development, conflicts among team members often occur. Here, the team is in the highest danger of deception. Members of a well-oriented, open, and optimistic team ask questions, compromise, and challenge one another constructively. This energy should encourage innovation, but disagreement may also generate animosity. Members might create sub-groups to nurture the dispute.
Task avoidance might occur if members benefit from the energy generated during hot contests. Even if some teams never pass this level, it should not be ignored. Conflict does not have to be unproductive. Teams without storms never learn to handle differences.
In Norming, the group members begin to feel like they’re achieving something that benefits the group. The structural resistance diminished as the members became more comfortable with one another. Some conflicts might have been resolved or an equilibrium reached.
Having worked through Storming the team is now ready for agreement and consensus. Roles and responsibilities are now clear and accepted and big decisions can be taken by the group as a whole. Minor decisions can even be delegated to individuals or sub-teams with respect, confidence and trust. Commitment and unity are strong and the team may spontaneously engage in fun activities. The team discusses and agrees on its processes and working style.
As the storm passes, team members learn to address problems and concentrate on the task. The risk is that members might focus on conflict prevention so much that they are unwilling to communicate challenging thoughts. There is also an undesirable tendency for “collective thought.” The competitive and informal atmosphere might limit the prevalent mindset.
The performing stage represents the team functioning at its highest level of productivity, with members working cohesively towards achieving shared goals. Performing signifies a mature and highly efficient team demonstrating autonomy, trust, and effective decision-making.
This step is the reward for the hard work of the team members. What was once a collection of people has become a team. Objectives, roles, and standards are widely agreed upon, and members are dedicated to delivering outcomes. They confront disagreements, challenge ideas without becoming personal, and take communal delight in a team accomplishment—the smooth functioning team at the performance stage, characterised by creative conflict and inventive issue solutions.
Adjourning Stage (Fifth Stage)
The fifth phase in the growth of Tuckman is the adjournment phase. In fact, this last stage was only incorporated into the 1977 Tuckman model and is the most melancholic of all team-building phases. The postponement phase implies that project teams exist only for a certain duration; after they have fulfilled their goal, they disintegrate. In fact, there is no need for team members to stick together if the particular project they worked on together has been completed.
Now they should move and get together for further goals, missions, or new projects. It may be equated to a breakdown, as it is frequently difficult for team members to remove themselves from others with whom they have established intimate links.
The majority of projects carried out by businesses don’t fit well with Tuckman’s model because it assumes that every person is a leader and a team member in some capacity. Instead, companies focus on developing their projects in a specific area, with a focus on team and project management, and this has become increasingly important in a more global economy.
When we talk about a team, we’re talking about a group of people who have the same goals and who will take care of these goals as a team. In some cases, a team consists of just one individual who is responsible for making the plan, and he or she is the sole team member. However, the majority of teams consist of more than one individual. If you are building a team for the first time, it may not be clear who should be leading the team, or if that should be decided by the client or by a group of people.