The four stages of team forming is an evergreen model used by countless facilitators who conduct teambuilding or leadership related workshops. Frequently, though – it is just touched upon in a very superficial way. The model though holds great substance and relevance while conducting experiential team building activities.
Lets take a dive into the model:
In 1938, Dr. Bruce Tuckman, a renowned psychologist introduced the 4-stage team developmental model that is now known very well. Less common to most, Dr. Tuckman has added a fifth stage to the model in 1965 which is the “adjourning” stage. Let’s walk through the 5 stages.
|At Communication Level
|Broken down, unstructured
|Structured and reflective
|Generative, productive, creating network
|At Relationship Level
|Polite, curious, wary, awkward and tense
|Stressful, fiery, clique forming, disagreements
|Stable roles, rules defined, reflective, WE before I
|Seeks for development, trusting, openness, enabled
|Bonded memories, maintains connection, anxiety, insecure
|At Task Level
|Information gathering, adjustments
|Structured, organized, clear goals and targets
|Task oriented, creative, PDCA, driven
|Handing over, concluding
|Participative (facilitating and enabling)
The diagram above presents the 5 stages of team developmental model and its relation to one another.
Forming is the initial stage for all team formation. Members are curious about each other; communication is generally superficial and courteous. It can be hierarchical especially for some new teams that were formed with a defined structure. Occasion awkwardness can be felt as the each member is adjusting to the new “team atmosphere”. If a leader has been appointed, the situation calls for a directive style in leading as the team is in a volatile stage, waiting for someone to shine the light.
Getting into disagreement is inevitable for teams. As part the growing stage, if the storm does not sink the ship, it will make the crew stronger. It is common that intra-group communication breaks down and it bears no structure too. Cliques started forming to establish pecking order, frequent disagreements result in tension filling the “team atmosphere”. Boundaries are taking shape but it is still very vague to the members. A leader under such situation should play as a coach, giving timely advices to the members, as such taking the team out of the storm gradually.
Out of the storm, come the still waters. Progressively, intra-group communication of the team takes on a clearer structure. Crucially team members are reflective of their behaviors that led or lagged the team’s performance. Roles and responsibilities are in place, stability is felt by all. Imperatives to the team, goals and targets are well defined and accepted by the members. A leader should facilitate and enable the members to act at this stage.
Most wanted by all teams, is the stage of performing. A trusting attitude and openness enables them to resolve any conflicts without needing intervention from the leader. Not only is the team driven and task oriented, each member is also well equipped with the required functional skills to act and perform. Seeking for development opportunities from the leader is common in this stage. The leader takes a back seat by delegation of tasks to the members and things will get done.
This stage signifies each member’s departure from the team. Usually, the required tasks have been completed and the purpose has been achieved. Members can now move on to new tasks or another team. It is common to hand over the incomplete tasks to another team. However, the members will retain the memories of their successful journey. Adjourning also means changing and inadvertently, this would induce uncertainly and anxiety to some members. The exiting leader should exercise resolution and firmness when communicating the impending changes.
Application of the Tuckman model:
Sometimes, the simplicity of a certain model becomes its bane – and so it is for the Tuckman model. Anyone seeing the model intuitively understands it – having been a part of many teams. The question for all of us as team leaders though is – how do we consciously apply this to our teams?
Give a thought to it today. In what stage of the Tuckmans model do you think your team is in? Incase you are looking for some simple diagnostic tool to do a dip stick, there is an excellent free test at Don Clark’s Big Dog site, to indicate whether your team is forming, storming, norming or performing.
Try this today – diagnose your team – and then help it to move along and get better !