Team Development: 4 Stages Every Team Experiences

You and your teammates trust each other enough to get a little creative and innovative, while still delivering top-notch work on time. Managers and project leads need to keep their eyes open, but be mostly hands-off so the team can build muscle around working independently. Remove obstacles by coordinating tightly with adjacent and upstream teams. Validate your assumptions about what your customers need, then proactively decide what you’re not doing right now so you don’t get distracted. There’s a new initiative to run at and you’re keen to get started. You’re not sure who is doing what, or how to break this epic project into smaller components.

Draw a simple four-stage diagram and ask each person to place a dot or sticky note next to the stage they think the team is at. The key to moving through this stage is to make things as simple as possible. Hopefully, your team’s purpose or desired outcome is understood by this point. Now it’s time to make sure everyone understands the incremental milestones on the way to your goal, and what their role is in helping the team get there. Clarity as to what success looks like at each milestone will give your team a much-needed confidence boost.

The Four Stages Of Team Development

However, as you’ve already gone through the worst part these disagreements may be easier to address. Each of these rhyming stages are aptly named and plays a significant role in building a highly functioning business team. Fourth, there is a question of the extent to which the attractiveness of the labelling Bruce W. Tuckman adopted has contributed to unthinking application by trainers and a reading onto groups of the phases. This really isn’t an issue with the formulation – rather how a nice turn of phrase can lead to laziness on the part of practitioners and trainers. Bruce W. Tuckman’s model offers us a way of thinking about the groups we encounter and participate within in. It offers, in Donald Schön’s terms a metaphor or image that we can play with to make sense of the phenomenon before us.

  • Such testing serves to identify the boundaries of both interpersonal and task behaviors.
  • Some members may start attempting to establish themselves over other members in the team, as well as challenging the leader’s authority and status.
  • The leader of the team will then describe the tasks to the group, describe the different behaviours to the group and how to deal and handle complaints.
  • You may have personally found the same to be true when a leader or project sponsor changes the scope or adds a new project task.
  • In any case, the startup is faced early on with important questions on how to build the team in a way that will maximize the chance of success.

Given these conflicting feelings, individual and team morale may rise or fall throughout the ending stage. It is highly likely that at any given moment individuals on the team will be experiencing different emotions about the team’s ending. In the Performing stage, the team makes significant progress towards its goals. Commitment to the team’s mission is high and the competence of team members is also high. Team members should continue to deepen their knowledge and skills, including working to continuously improving team development. Accomplishments in team process or progress are measured and celebrated.

Which stage is your team in?

Having a way to identify and understand causes for changes in the team behaviors can help the team maximize its process and its productivity. The initial Forming stage of Tuckman’s theory of team development is when the team is first brought together and/or a new leader or system has been implemented. First, it can be subjected to a more general critique of stage theory (which is discussed elsewhere with regard to  life span development).

bruce tuckman 4 stages of team development

In any case, the startup is faced early on with important questions on how to build the team in a way that will maximize the chance of success. Bear in mind that, in some cases, you might need to reform and relaunch a long-standing team to reap the benefits of all four Tuckman stages. And to be clear, the Tuckman model is only one way of looking at team development. But it’s been around a long time and I believe it still serves as a good jumping-off point for the concept of seeing teams as organically evolving entities rather than “plug and play” machines.

The Tuckman Model

When it’s time to celebrate meeting a milestone, consider indulging in a team dinner or day out doing something fun together. And, now that you’ve figured out established practices that help you collaborate effectively, share those with other teams. Recently, several teams in our engineering department undertook a massive, ludicrously complex, business-critical infrastructure project. The number of risks and dependencies sent these established and cohesive dev teams into a flurry of (ultimately, unproductive and/or counter-productive) activity. If your team has ever thrashed about like this, then you know what “storming” is. The forming-storming-norming-performing cycle repeats more often than you might think.

bruce tuckman 4 stages of team development

In the past, we would look to HR or our boss’ boss for guidance. While those people are still available when we need them, we usually don’t. Most teams today work according to the principles of the agile movement. Even if you’re not “Agile” (with a capital A), you self-organize around tasks. You don’t wait to be told how to do your job – you determine the best way to meet your objectives and get on with it.