For groups to be efficient and effective, the people in the team must be able to work together to contribute collectively to team outcomes according to the 5 stages of group development. But this does not happen automatically and can only be achieved when the team works together. You have probably had an experience when you have been put on a team to work on a school assignment or project. When your team first gets together, you likely sit around and look at each other, not knowing how to begin. Initially you are not a team; you are just individuals assigned to work together. Over time you get to know each other, to know what to expect from each other, to know how to divide the labor and assign tasks, and to know how you will coordinate your work. Through this process, you begin to operate as a team instead of a collection of individuals.
WHAT ARE THE 5 STAGES OF GROUP DEVELOPMENT?
This process of learning to work together effectively is known as team development. Research has shown that teams go through these stages of group development development. Bruce Tuckman, an educational psychologist, identified a stages of group development process that most teams follow to become high performing. He called the stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.
The first stage of team development is forming, which is a lot like orientation day at college or a new job. You could even compare it to going out on a first date. The team has just been introduced and everyone is overly polite and pleasant. At the start, most are excited to start something new and to get to know the other team members.
The forming stage includes:
- Member’s skills, background and interests
- Project goals
- Ground rules
- Individual roles
As the group starts to familiarize themselves, roles and responsibilities will begin to form. It is important for team members to develop relationships and understand what part each person plays. But, because this stage focuses more on the people than on the work, your team probably won’t be very productive yet.
Have you ever reached the point in a relationship where you become aware of a person’s characteristics and they frustrate or annoy you? Perhaps they squeeze the toothpaste from the top of the tube instead of the bottom? Well, congrats, you’ve entered the storming stage.
Being in a team is like being in a relationship. At first, you may think someone is perfect and flawless. But, then you realize that they aren’t. Once you’re aware of their flaws, you either learn to embrace them or the relationship will end quickly. In the storming stage, the reality and weight of completing the task at hand have now hit everyone. The initial feelings of excitement and the need to be polite have likely worn off.
Some teams skip over the storming stage or try to avoid conflict at whatever cost. Avoidance usually makes the problem grow until it blows up. So, recognize conflicts and resolve them early on.
During the norming stage, people start to notice and appreciate their team members’ strengths. Groups start to settle into a groove. Everyone is contributing and working as a cohesive unit.
Well, of course, you may still think that your tech guy’s choice in music is obnoxious. But, you also admire his knowledge of web design and coding skills, and value his opinions on anything tech-related. Storming sometimes overlaps with norming. As new tasks arise, groups may still experience a few conflicts. If you’ve already dealt with disagreement before, it will probably be easier to address this time.
If you’ve reached the fourth stage, pat yourself on the back. You’re on your way to success. In the performing stage, members are confident, motivated and familiar enough with the project and their team that they can operate without supervision. Everyone is on the same page and driving full-speed ahead towards the final goal. The fourth stage is the one that all groups strive to reach. Yet, some do not make it. They usually fail to overcome conflict and can’t work together.
In 1977, Tuckman added a fifth stage called adjourning. Once a project ends, the team disbands. This phase is sometimes known as mourning because members have grown close and feel a loss now that the experience is over.
WHY ARE THE 5 STAGES OF GROUP DEVELOPMENT IMPORTANT?
Groups are so in-sync during the performing stage that it seems to happen naturally. But, don’t be fooled. The most effective and high-functioning teams are cultivated. Throwing a group of talented people together doesn’t mean that they will form a great team. Hoping that your company or project will be a success won’t make it happen.
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR TEAM ADVANCE IN THEIR DEVELOPMENT?
Business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs are often viewed as team leaders. If something fails, you may blame yourself. If it succeeds, you’ll receive the praise. Whether you are leading your entire company or a smaller project group, you have a huge influence on 5 stages of team development and performance.