In 1965, Bruce Tuckman discovered that teams go through a team-building process comprised of five stages of growth: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and finally Adjourning. Teams do not typically go through the team-building process on their own accord. Teams must be led through the process by their Program Manager (PM). Below is a detailed explanation of each phase.
Five Stages of Team Development
In this stage team members are introduced. The program manager needs to state why they were chosen and what they will accomplish for the team. This is a good time to lay out the mission, vision, and goals of the team. This is a stage of transition from individual to team member status, and of testing the leader’s guidance both formally and informally. During the forming stage of team building, a program manager should:
- Promote excitement, anticipation, and optimism
- Develop an appropriate leadership style
- Set the Mission, Vision, and Goals
- Develop a team decision process
Forming activities include abstract discussions of the concepts and issues; some members will be impatient with these discussions. There is often difficulty in identifying some of the relevant problems because there is so much going on that members get distracted. The team often accomplishes little concerning its goals in this stage. A program manager needs to know this is perfectly normal.
This is the phase when a group becomes a team. During this phase most members have their own ideas as to how the process should look and personal agendas are often rampant. Storming is probably the most difficult stage for the team and the program manager to control. They begin to realize the tasks ahead of them are different and more difficult than they previously imagined. They also get impatient about the lack of progress and members argue about what actions the team should take. They try to rely solely on their personal and professional experience and resist collaborating with other team members. Typical characteristics of a team in the storming phase that a program manager should know include:
- Resisting the tasks
- Resisting quality improvement approaches suggested by other members
- Sharp fluctuations in attitude about the team’s chance of success
- Arguing among members, even when they agree on the real issues
- Defensiveness, competition, and choosing sides
- Questioning the wisdom of those who selected the project and appointed the members of the team
The Storming phase is where a program manager’s leadership qualities will be tested. It’s their job to make sure the team doesn’t break apart and keeps on track. A program manager needs to determine the best leadership style to prevent this from happening. The style will depend on the team member’s make-up and response. These leadership styles can include:
- Autocratic Leadership – Best applied to situations where there is little time for group decision-making or where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group.
- Democratic Leadership – Best applied for teams that are very skilled, motivated and working effectively.
- Free-Rein Leadership – Effective in situations where group members are highly skilled, motivated and capable of working on their own.
This phase is when the team reaches a consensus on the “To-Be” process. Enthusiasm is high, and the team is often tempted to go beyond the original scope of the process which a program manager must prevent. During this stage, members reconcile competing loyalties and responsibilities. They accept the team, ground rules, controls, roles, and the individuality of fellow members. Emotional conflict is reduced as previously competitive relationships become more cooperative. During the Norming stage of team building, a program manager should:
- Prevent teams from going beyond the process
- Reinforce the standards
- Eliminate barriers to effective decision making
In this phase, the team has primarily settled its relationships and expectations. They can begin performing by diagnosing, problem-solving, and implementing changes. At last, team members have discovered and accepted other’s strengths and weaknesses. In addition, they have learned what their roles are. During the Performing stage a program manager should:
- Reinforce the control process thru audits
- Look for areas of optimization
- Managing the decision-making process
The final phase of the team development phases. This phase consists of leaving the team and completing the project. The team members disband and go their separate ways.