Team Development

Team Development

Team Development

It takes time to create a team that works and functions well together. There can be adjustments needed with differing personalities and communication can be a challenge when individuals work in different ways.

Understanding how a team works and the processes that a team will go through psychologically can help team leaders to solve problems and resolve tensions quickly and effectively.

What Is Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing?

It may sound like a random combination of words, but each one has a defined meaning in relation to building a cohesive team.

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman created a psychological model that describes how best to nurture a newly formed team. The model outlined four distinct stages within the team-building process, along with a fifth stage used to describe the process a team goes through when a project is complete.

The model used psychological principles to consider the stages a group of individuals will go through. It starts at the initial formation or inception stage.

The four main stages identified by Tuckman were: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. He later added an additional Mourning or Adjourning stage.

  • Forming – The inception stage where a group is put together and they start to adjust to one another.

  • StormingConflicts and personality clashes may cause issues.

  • Norming – Gradually the team will start to find their roles and work together.

  • Performing – The team is working together well. They are asking one another for advice and supporting each other when necessary

  • Mourning/Adjourning – The project is over and the team is no longer needed. This may be temporary (adjourning) or permanent (mourning).

The idea of understanding the separate stages is that this will help team leaders to move between them and towards positive outcomes.

Examples of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing

Forming

This describes the beginning of a group, when it is initially formed.

The team members may be unsure of one another, they may not know where they each stand in relation to the group and there may be communication errors or confusion. Generally, there will be a positive feeling within the team as members begin to get to know one another.

This stage may only last for a short while, or it can last for a longer period of time. It will depend on the personalities of the team members involved and the amount of time they spend together.

Example

In a school setting, there will often be a group of individuals who organise events. These can be members of staff or volunteers. Before each event, a team will be put together to organise each aspect of it and ensure that it runs smoothly.

For example, a fundraising event will need individuals to organise the venue, decorations that may be needed, refreshments that may need to be available, handling the funds that are raised, sourcing further volunteers for the day if they are required and many more aspects.

Each member of the team will be given their role and they will work together to brainstorm what the event will look like and what needs to be done to make it a success.

Storming

The storming phase describes when initial conflicts may occur. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as clashing personalities or issues with the authority or management style of the team leader.

This phase will often occur once roles have been allocated by the team leader. Some individuals may feel as though they have been given the wrong role within their team. This can lead to friction. It can also lead to members of a team not wishing to work together and not communicating well with one another.

For a team leader, this is the most risky part of building a team. If the individuals are deeply unhappy with the roles they have been given, then there is the potential for the team to fall apart.

Example

Once the team has been put together to organise a fundraising event and each person has been given their role, this is when problems might occur.

It could be that one individual feels that they have more experience in handling funds than the person who has been allocated the task. Alternatively, it could be that one individual has worked on projects for the school before in a different role and feels that they should be doing that role again.

All of these feelings can lead to resentment and potential arguments.

Team Development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing
Team Development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing

Norming

Gradually, when handled correctly, individuals will be able to work through their differences. The conflicts will subside and they will start to work together as a team.

Part of this process will be that individuals will begin to notice each other's strengths and ask for help or advice from other members of the team, rather than relying solely on the team leader. They will start to trust one another a little more and understand their role within the team.

Progress will begin to be made towards an end goal.

Example

If the team leader understands what is causing the conflicts, then they are able to resolve them. In this situation involving the fundraising event and the individual who has experience in finance, this can be tricky to handle.

The team leader might emphasise the skills that they feel the individual has which are best suited to the role they have been given. They may also suggest to the person who has been given the more financial role that they can ask advice from others in the team if they are confused.

As long as conflicts are handled carefully and sensitively, they can be resolved. This enables the team to move forward with planning their event and focussing on the roles they have been given.

Performing

The performing stage describes a team that is able to sustain their optimum performance level, work well together and achieve goals.

They are efficient and able to ask one another for help or advice when they need to. They are also able to take on additional roles when required, such as if a team member is sick or if a task is requiring additional attention.

Example

The problems have been worked through and everyone is happy to work together.

This means that progress can be made with organising the fundraising event. Venues can be booked, flyers can be made and, if individuals require assistance, then they feel comfortable asking for help within the team.

Adjourning or Mourning

This is a stage that was added after the original principle was developed. The adjourning or mourning stage refers to the end of a project, where a team may longer be required to work together.

This could be because members of a team move on to other projects, a project has been completed or for a number of other reasons.

It is possible that some people may find this a difficult stage to move on from due to close working relationships.

Example

Once the event is over, there is no need for that particular team anymore. They have achieved their objective. It is possible that members of the team will work together again on other events, although they may hold different roles.

How to Use Tuckman’s Team Development Ideas

By using the ideas outlined in Tuckman’s theory, team leaders are able to minimise the amount of conflict within a team and maximise productivity and staff happiness.

Create Objectives at the Forming Stage

People like to know what they need to do and when it needs to be completed.

Creating clear objectives helps individuals to understand what they are working towards and what might be expected of them. It can also help people to settle into roles, as they will understand their part of the bigger picture.

Facilitate Feedback Mechanisms to Avoid Tension During the Storming Phase

One of the biggest issues which a team leader can deal with during a storming phase is a team who doesn’t feel as though they are being listened to. This creates even more tension and frustration.

Making sure that there is an easily followed feedback mechanism not only helps team leaders to give their team constructive feedback, but it also allows team members to feed issues back to the team leader.

This way, everyone knows the processes that they need to follow to have their concerns heard.

Reward Good Performance in a Transparent and Consistent Way

Staf want to know how and when they will be rewarded, as well as what this reward is likely to be. If they feel as though another team member is being given rewards when they are doing the same work unrewarded, this will lead to resentment.

It is important for staff members to be able to clearly see what they need to do and what the reward will be.

Revisit Past Success to Reinforce Good Working Practices and Build Morale

People like to be told when they have done something well. It builds confidence and helps them to feel valued.

By taking the time to revisit past successes that a team might have had, team leaders can start a new project with their team on a positive footing. This helps to reduce tensions and increase morale.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a team can be a challenge. There are differing personalities, perspectives and priorities that can impact how well a group of individuals is able to gel together.

This is why it is important to understand the psychological principles attached to Tuckman’s theory. By taking the time to understand the stages and processes, it is possible to create a cohesive team that works well and communicates effectively.

Spending time understanding how a team works will also help to minimise negative interactions and problematic occurrences, meaning that staff feel respected, listened to and valued as part of their team.


Read This Next

You might also be interested in these other WikiJob articles:

Or explore the Jobs & Careers / Employment sections.