Tuckman’s Team & Group Development Model: What You Need To Know To Get Your New Group or Team Performing Beautifully!

TCTC-Forming-StormingI first remember learning about Tuckman's Team & Group Development Model while a management trainee at a large company. I found it fascinating - because I instantly saw that this model applies to ANY groups. It helps with understanding the stages of development a team goes through at work, but it also applies to groups of friends, networking groups, volunteering organizations - in fact it applies anywhere you interact regularly with others in a group setting.

Learning about this model can help you at work AND at home, and it can also help you help your clients - whatever kind of coach you are. I'm also curious what you think about this model applying to friends and romantic relationships...

Tuckman's Team & Group Development Model

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman presented a paper outlining this model saying that four phases were necessary for a team to develop and grow: 1) Forming, 2) Storming, 3) Norming and 4) Performing. Tuckman's Group Development Model has since formed the basis of many future models. Tuckman's model helps managers, leaders and team members:

  • Notice what stage their team is at, helping team members to process and acknowledge the inevitable conflicts and changes during group development.
  • Helps teams and groups accelerate through the group stages with awareness and compassion for each other.
  • Ultimately improve team performance.

1. Forming

Forming is where people get to know each other, and the task at hand. What are everyone's strengths, weaknesses? When can they be relied upon and when not? What quirks do our fellow team members have? What are we working towards and why?

At this stage people avoid conflict and "play nice" with each other because they want to be accepted into the group. The group is learning about the objectives and goals - getting a feel for the work that must be done together. People tend to focus on practical details - who, what, when and where and work reasonably independently at this stage - while they learn where they and everyone else fits into the team.

This stage can be frustrating for many as there is a large focus on information gathering - which takes time - and actions are postponed until the direction is clear.

ROLE OF THE LEADER: A leader is essential at this stage to help the team figure out objectives and team roles and responsibilities. The leadership may be quite directive at this stage.

2. Storming

As people begin to feel safer, they will push the boundaries set up by the team in the forming stage - and conflicts may begin to erupt. Clashes occur due to different personalities and differences in working styles - the ways things get done. Resentments and irritations that were buried in the last stage erupt and negatively effect the team's performance.

The team must come together to decide how to move forwards and solve the inevitable challenges and misunderstandings that come out as the task progresses. People are competing, but beginning to open up to each other too. As they do this, the team begins to establish how they will work together going forwards.

NOTE: Some teams get stuck in this stage. Team members may sabotage individual and group goals through unresolved conflicts. Team members must learn it is safe to share differing opinions and ideas and it can be a very challenging stage for people who are conflict averse. It's great when more experienced team members model good team behaviour.

ROLE OF THE LEADER: The leader will need to be very accessible during this phase. Team members may challenge the leader and/or jostle for position. The leader needs to make sure that team members are clear on their responsibilities and tasks to keep the team on track. Individual coaching may be needed if team members are difficult or not completing their tasks. In addition, the leader may need to step into a more directive role to ensure the team remains professional - and resolves conflict in a non-judgemental and healthy way.

3. Norming

Norming is where the plan comes together. During this stage the team agrees the plan, timelines and who should contribute what to the plan according to their skills. Some team members may need to let go of 'their' ideas and make sacrifices for the greater good of the team. Also, team members begin to clearly see others' strengths and accept their weaknesses.

The team will also be developing trust - helping each other and asking for help, and many teams are socialising with each other by this stage. Storming can still occur - especially when there is change or stress on the team, but in general the team is beginning to work effectively.

ROLE OF THE LEADER: The norming stage can be sped up with helpful facilitation from the leader - helping the team come to decisions for themselves and learning to complete their tasks as a unit. The leader should be asking questions (coaching) and not directing. The leader can also organize socialising events to encourage healthy team-bonding that moves a group into the performing stage.

WATCH OUT FOR: It can be difficult at this stage for concerns and new ideas to be raised, as people are keen to leave behind the uncertainty and unpleasantness of the "Storming" phase. There is a pressure to move forwards and get things done and leaders must remain open to new ideas and ensure that conflicts are aired and dealt with.

4. Performing

In short, the team is now performing. The team is stable and the goals are clear. The team has developed processes that work for the team and people follow them. Performing teams get the job done with minimal supervision and conflict. People are motivated and competently get the job done. Conflicts are no longer threatening and different perspectives are seen as valuable. When a team fully meets this stage, it is a high-performing team.

ROLE OF THE LEADER: For the team to perform at its best, a good leader will encourage creative conflicts and help celebrate and reward achievements. It empowers the team if the leader steps back once a team is performing. The high performing team is largely autonomous and a good leader will now be delegating, developing team members and maintaining a visioning role.

5. Mourning or Adjourning

Bruce Tuckman teamed up with Mary Ann Jensen in 1977 to add a fifth stage - that of adjourning, sometimes called mourning. This stage is about wrapping up the task and the team breaking up. It may be a difficult stage for some team members who enjoy the routine, or who have made good friendships. A leader can help by working with team members to plan their futures and what comes next.

Using this Group Development Tool

IMPORTANT NOTE: These group development stages can be cycled through again and again due to changes in goals, team structure or the leader. Hopefully the cycle is shorter the next time around, especially if team members are aware. A good leader watches for these shifts in order to step in and support the team back to higher levels of group functioning.

Are you or your client a team member? Use this model to establish where you are in the development stages, and decide what steps you personally want to take to help the team move towards performing.

Are you or your client in a leadership role? Share the model and ask team members to identify where they think they are in this Group Development Model, and what they need to do to move through the stages and perform better. Taking this a step further, a regular team review of this model can help team members to see the progress being made, and reward them for it.

It empowers us to understand what stage we are at - and identify actions that we can take to help our team perform better. In addition, as well as taking specific action we can also decide to simply model great behaviour for others.

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