Recently, two different speakers in two very different events – David Criado from Vorpalina in this breakfast on Innovation and Humanism , and Carmen Monforte from the ITI at this event of real cases of Scrum application – brought to mention Tuckman’s description of these four stages of team development: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing or high performance.
In addition to the coincidence between the speakers, this theory caught my attention for its simplicity and ability to explain many of the behaviors that happen today in the work teams.
Any post that I could write could not be compared to everything that is already written about this classification, so I just quote this post from MIT that is read in 5 minutes and that explains it brilliantly well. Below you will find the four ideas that seem most relevant to me based on my experience.
1 The first thing that stands out about this model is that it takes into account how the team behaves with respect to the execution of its tasks, and how it behaves with respect to its relations. Have you tried to treat these two aspects separately? It seems very difficult to me, if not impossible.
2 Another contribution of Tuckman’s theory is to normalize many of the behaviors that we usually see and adopt when working as a team. According to this model, feeling some anxiety when a team starts working together is normal, as well as it is normal that after working toghether for some time, conflicts arise and there are feelings of confusion or frustration within the team.
Do you feel some relief knowing that the situation your team is going through is part of your evolution? In my experience, this releases anxiety and pressure, and predisposes all team members, including their leaders, to improvement.
3 The third noteworthy aspect, which complements the previous one, is that although the situation your team is experiencing is part of its evolution, there is always something what can we do to improve it. Tuckman shows that to stay in one state and to be able to move on to the next it is necessary for the team to make a conscious effort. The effort will be aimed at generating trust and relationships in the early stages, and later, to share a purpose, balance roles and responsibilities, for example.
The presence of a team coach or a mentor can help in this phase to let the team recognize the stage where it is, and concentrate its conscious effort in actions that take them to the next development stage, increasing the efficiency of their actions, and achieving results in a shorter time.
4 Last but not least, I emphasize that the evolution between these four stages is not linear. That is, due to internal or external changes to the team, it can pass from one state to another, in any direction. That is, it is also normal that, if a member of a Storming team leaves, the team will start to work in the Norming state. Or vice versa.
And you, at what stage do you think your team is? What will you do for your evolution? Whatever the point you are in, I hope that this post will motivate you and your team to walk your steps towards the Performing phase or high performance.
If you like to have the information firsthand, here is this link where you can read the second article published by Tuckman about his work in 1977 “Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited”. The original work dates from 1965 and is entitled “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups”.