Stages of team development

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Team building

Group Formation Theory

Developing a high performing team does not happen overnight. However skilled or experienced the team members are, each group of individuals coming together for the first time will go through several stages before becoming a high performance team.

Recognising these fundamental stages a group goes through can help you identify your next steps towards achieving your goals. These five stages of team development are summarised below, and is based on the work of Dr Bruce Tuckman, a psychology researcher in group dynamics.

5 stages of team development

  1. Forming: the group is ‘undeveloped’ and generally people are concerned with ‘who fits where’. This is usually the initial stage of a group of people meeting for the first time, but it can also happen when a new member of a team joins an established team, such as a new leader, or a strong character.
  2. Storming: the group is ‘experimenting’ and concerned with how they work together. They are testing out where they fit into the group. Only a small amount is likely to be achieved at this stage. The group is likely to be showing signs of conflict and as well as lively debates and discussions.
  3. Norming: the group is ‘settling down’ and starting to feel more comfortable with working with each other. Far more is being achieved at this stage, although there is room for improvement!
  4. Performing: the group is now a team! It is mature with goals being achieved and an atmosphere that is relaxed and purposeful. The team is likely to be feeling confident at this stage with a really open and honest dialogue taking place.
  5. Mourning: the group is disbanding. This fifth stage should not be forgotten. An acid test of how well a team has worked together can often be found at the mourning stage. If there has been great camaraderie and the team has produced great results, the team is likely to feel great sadness and loss at breaking up. Often successful teams once disbanded, keep in touch afterwards, and certainly feel a bond when meeting up in the future.

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Practical steps for a team leader

So what are the practical implications of these stages of team development?

  • Leadership Styles
    There is a need to adapt our leadership style as the team develop through the stages to ensure progress. The team will need a more instructional/directive style at the early stages of coming together, to get the team goals and roles quickly established; becoming more facilitative/collaborative towards the end when the team are at a high level of maturity and demonstrating a high level of team performance.
  • Explain the Various Stages
    Explaining the 5 stages of team development model to the team when they first get together helps the team members appreciate why they are experiencing the team behaviour they have and opens up a dialogue around how they can best move forward.

    Looking for more help? Try our high performance teams training.

  • Managing Conflict
    Resolving the conflict that may be preventing the team from moving on from the ‘norming’ stage and becoming a high performing team – something that happens quite frequently with ‘teams’ of people at work.
  • New Team Members
    Integrating new team members as they come on board is vital, as the team will revert back to the forming stage as the team dynamics have changed. Helping new team members understand how the team operates including the sometimes ‘unspoken rules or guidelines’ helps speed up the progression.
  • Departing Team Members
    Sensitively managing the departure of leaving team members is vital, especially where the team have performed well. Recognition of their contribution and achievements is vital to ease the ‘mourning’ stage and progression.
  • Managing Change
    Supporting current team members through team changes and adapting your leadership styles to suit where the team are in terms of these stages.
  • Team Focus
    Plan a team building event to rejuvenate the team when the team energy takes a dive or where the team need to re-focus their efforts towards a new or changed goal.

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