Four stages of team development every manager should know about
As a manager, to lead your team well you need to understand the fluid nature of teams, and the fact that as your team does mature it will probably go through Dr Bruce Tuckman’s stages of team development.
A team’s maturity has nothing to do with how old they are or how long they have been working together. It has to do with how well they work together.
This process will not be a linear one. A team does not go from stage one through four sequentially, of their own accord, or quickly. Often the team will go back and forth or hover around some of the stages. Every time you add a new person to the team, they will more than likely fall back a step or two.
To help you recognise where your team might be, here are what the stages of team development look like:
Team Development Stage 1 – Forming
Forming is the first stage of team development, when people get to know each other as team members, rather than as people they see in the staff canteen or an occasional meeting. It is a time during which people often behave in ways that are subdued, guarded, observant and polite.
Some groups never get beyond this stage. But for real teams, the forming stage is the kickoff. It is the building blocks of the team’s future. Time, the right sort of support, and clear leadership all work together to move the new team to the point where important questions start to emerge.
Team Development Stage 2 – Storming
After what seems like relative calm throughout the forming stage, many managers assume that the second stage of their team’s evolutionary journey will be quiet and productive.
You might say to yourself: ‘There won’t be much conflict in my team!’ Unfortunately, no one is that lucky. If your team is going to be a real team, the storming stage is where conflict shows up.
The polite conversations of the forming stage are forgotten. Personal agendas are revealed, and hostility abounds. Conflicts of personality and disagreements about who does what come out into the open. Team members push their views on one another, rather than offering them to the team. Divisions will occur, and with the team splitting into opposing factions, sometimes they may even end up at war with each other.
Team Development Stage 3 – Norming
At this stage, the team starts to settle down and get used to each others’ styles and behaviours. They settle into a mode of getting things done. Hopefully, trust is now developing.
While you may think “Why did they have to go through all that storming to get here?” the team needed that conflict because it helped them rebuild to succeed. Even as the norms start to form, you will see people want to try things or experiment with new ways of getting the job done. So be aware that it’s not all sweetness and light here; there will still be disputes, but they should happen less frequently and be more constructive from now on.
Team Development Stage 4 – Performing
Many managers mistakenly think this is the only time their team will produce results, but the title does not mean your team hasn’t been producing results in the other phases. It has, but not as fruitfully as it will now. In the former stages, there were debates that took up time and effort, distracting the team from its purpose.
Hopefully, the team won’t go back down the stages and can now work as a mature team. Don’t be fooled into thinking they will never need any more team building or coaching – they will. But a great leader is always aware of that!