In any team, members can't work in tandem if there's no chemistry between. A team's effectiveness gets enhanced by a commitment to ongoing growth and development. That's particularly for new teams because members need to get acquainted with each other first before they start to work towards the common goal.
Renowned psychologist Bruce Tuckman created an easily-understood model in 1965. It illustrates how teams in different fields undergo five similar stages of group development. Understanding the stages of team development enables you to build successful and high-performing teams.
A team comprises individuals brought together to fulfill a common goal. Everyone plays a critical role in meeting the goal since each has a unique skill set. Nonetheless, few share the same attitude and orientation.
Getting everyone on the same wavelength sounds easy on paper, but that isn't the case. It's challenging to balance common and individual goals within a team especially during moments of discord, failure, or stress. That's where team development comes in.
As the name suggests, team development entails training and supporting a group of individuals so that they work as a cohesive unit to realize the intended outcome. An excellent example of team development is when colleagues from different departments partner to work on a project.
Initially, they might not understand each other's expectations and roles. Even so, they'll still need to collaborate and divide roles and responsibilities to ensure the project gets completed on time. Team development is the structured process of bringing together a group of diverse individuals and teaching them to appreciate their differences as they work towards a shared goal.
According to Mr. Tuckman, the five stages of team development are:
Here's a detailed look at each of the five stages.
In this stage, the team comes together for the first time, and members get to know each other. The forming stage is often slow and casual since it primarily involves members getting acquainted. Trust is built, which plays a critical role in the team's success.
During the first meeting, team members also learn their roles and what's expected of them as they work towards attaining the shared goal. Ground rules that will govern the team get outlined at the forming stage. Team leaders need to facilitate introductions and highlight each member's background and skills.
On their part, members should learn how to organize their responsibilities. The forming stage is a honeymoon phase in team development. Conflicts are usually minimal since members are too newly acquainted to have any.
During the forming stage, team members are often optimistic and enthusiastic about getting started. They may also be polite and nervous about how the team will gel. The apprehensive behavior usually arises because members are unsure about the project goals and their roles. However, once that's explained, they'll adjust to the roles that await them.
This is the second stage of the team development process. It involves a challenging yet critical transition from the laid-back forming stage. There's a possibility of failure at the storming stage because it's here that conflicts start to manifest. At the storming stage, members will start to feel comfortable around each other, share ideas, and learn how their colleagues operate in a team setting.
The imposing personalities in the team will become evident at this stage, especially when members start to share ideas openly. Those who stand out start to get accepted by their peers as potential leaders. Team leaders should implement measures for managing competition and potential conflict among members. They also need to streamline competition and ensure the projects they're handling stay on track.
As the real work starts during the storming stage, interpersonal and technical challenges will appear. Leadership decisions, individual work habits, and communication lapses during the storming stage can create tension within a team. Frustration, annoyance, and anxiety tend to arise as a result. Team members need to learn to use conflict positively so that it doesn't slow or hinder their progress.
As strong personalities emerge, team leaders should ensure these individuals don't inadvertently dominate the rest of the team and the project's outcomes. An easy way to do so is by encouraging everyone's participation in team activities. Once the storming stage gets navigated, the team can achieve a better dynamic.
The norming stage is when the entire team starts to work as a cohesive unit. By now, team members have figured out a strategy for working together. The internal competitions prevalent at the storming stage have been rooted out. Each team member's roles and responsibilities are also clear. As a result, the team works more efficiently because members understand what's expected of them and know how to share their ideas and seek feedback.
In the norming stage, the team falls into a rhythm and starts to work as a cohesive task force. Each member's talents and skills get validated and utilized in executing the necessary tasks. As a result, the team starts to operate more effectively and gains momentum towards realizing the shared goals. Members become more comfortable with each other and understand the significance of utilizing their diverse perspectives to find practical solutions to any challenges.
Although members understand each other, conflicts may still arise at the norming stage of team development. Nonetheless, the conflicts can't spiral into dysfunction because the team has gelled. Members have a more profound commitment to each other and the project's completion, so it's easier to handle conflicts.
If you're a team leader, it's best to remember that an overlap between the storming and norming stages may appear. Your team can easily backslide into the storming stage, especially when new tasks arise or when handling the more complicated aspects of the project. For this reason, team leaders should be at hand to help members return to the norming stage.
Here, there's cohesion, trust, and understanding among team members. The team functions at peak efficiency, and little or no oversight are needed. At the performing stage, it's easy to accomplish tasks since members are in tandem and understand the process. Team members thrive when handling individual and collective tasks since each individual's skills are fully optimized.
Issues may still arise, but more infrequently. Challenges have a minimal impact on team performance and morale because members have strategies for resolving them without compromising project timelines and progress. A team's performance is at peak capacity at this stage because everyone has learned to identify and leverage each other's strengths for the common good.
The performing stage is critical to the team, and reaching it usually portends the success that's to come. It also precipitates team learning, which is the process of gathering, discussing, and rolling out the strategies for team success. Team learning can happen through group initiatives, innovative leadership, and training and is essential in ensuring healthy team development.
This is the final stage of the team development process. It's also known as the transforming process and happens after the team accomplishes what it set out to do. Afterward, it starts to dismantle itself in readiness for other tasks. The adjourning stage is a time for both mourning and celebration. Mourning because team members are paring after forging deep relationships during the project and celebration for a job well done.
Most teams get to the adjourning stage at some point but that's not always the case. Some teams get created for projects with endpoints, while others are ongoing. However, even teams built for permanent projects can still undergo the adjourning process due to restructuring and re-allocation. The stage can cause uncertainty, especially among team members who are unsure about their subsequent roles. Thus, leaders should be supportive and help members transition smoothly into the new roles.
The adjourning stage is an excellent opportunity for team leaders to encourage long-term relationships, celebrate the project's closing, and reflect on the team's progress and efforts. In an organization, the adjourning stage could translate into a change in employees' job responsibilities. For instance, if the team develops a new work process for improving the customer experience, members may be asked to oversee the new and improved process.
An organization is only as strong as the teams it creates to handle various projects. For this reason, organizations should invest in team development since it impacts the bottom line significantly. Developing an effective team is akin to maintaining a garden. If you leave it unattended, it ceases to thrive. The five stages of team development go a long way in ensuring that your teams thrive and that conflicts are kept minimal.
Your organization benefits significantly from the five stages. As a team goes through the stages, individual members learn more about their potential and how to work dynamically as part of a collective. The team development stages also acquaint members with each other's talents and roles and prepare them for future leadership positions.
When each stage carries through successfully, the entire group will be more in sync and functional. No member of the team will be afraid to ask questions, raise concerns, or propose new ways of performing tasks. Team members usually play to their strengths and help each other out, thereby enhancing teamwork and cohesion in your organization. Bottlenecks get addressed promptly and with purpose since the team can easily collaborate and create the solutions required to get everyone back on track.
Ultimately, undergoing the five stages of team development sets your team up for success. There will be a higher chance of realizing the project goals within the timelines set at the forming stage. At the adjourning stage, team members will be eager to collaborate again on other projects.
Navigating through the five stages of group development isn't a walk in the park. During the initial stages, in particular, there'll be lots of conflicts, disagreements, and a clash of personalities. This is expected when people with different perspectives come together to work towards a common goal.
Such conflicts can hinder progress and even grind everything to a halt. Thankfully, you can deploy some strategies to ensure your team navigates the stages without issues. For instance, outlining the team's purpose and mission at the forming stage and retaliating during subsequent stages ensures no one loses sight of the common goal.
Establishing ground rules from the get-go ensures they get followed as the group moves from one stage to the next. A critical rule to emphasize is that team members should always listen to each other and feel free to consult and raise concerns. No idea is too stupid to raise, and no question is too silly to ask. Ultimately, everyone is working towards a common goal. That can only happen if a solid foundation gets laid and communication channels are kept open.
Feedback is critical to improving your team's performance while navigating through the five stages. In this regard, consider ending each meeting with constructive and insightful feedback to enhance the group process. Encouraging the notion that feedback should be given after every meeting makes it easier for team members to air their views. It also enables your team to collaborate.
Team development plays a critical role in your organization's success. When the five stages of team development get successfully implemented, a sense of partnership and community is fostered. Likewise, it sets up everyone involved for success. It's best to set clear expectations at every stage so that the team has seamless alignment when proceeding to the next.
The success of your team development efforts depends on the tools you use. You need to invest in tools that enhance team development meetings, workshops, and training. Hugo is one such tool. The efficiency-obsessed virtual meeting tool is designed to foster a culture of connection in your teams. It allows you to enjoy a seamless workflow that enhances your team's productivity. Sign up to get Hugo for free.
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