Are you forming, storming, norming or performing? Or perhaps you're just wondering what in the world I'm talking about.
What I'm talking about is Tuckman's stages of group development. I was introduced to it through my sons' involvement with Scouting. Tuckman is a theory that every group of people is in one of four stages of team building. When we started Wood Badge training, we were at the forming phase:
"In the first stage of team building, the forming of the team takes place. The individual's behavior is driven by a desire to be accepted by the others, and avoid controversy or conflict. Serious issues and feelings are avoided, and people focus on being busy with routines, such as team organization, who does what, when to meet, etc. Individuals are also gathering information and impressions -- about each other, and about the scope of the task and how to approach it. This is a comfortable stage to be in, but the avoidance of conflict and threat means that not much actually gets done."
The next phase, we were told, is marked by high enthusiasm and low skills:
"Every group will next enter the storming stage in which different ideas compete for consideration. The team addresses issues such as what problems they are really supposed to solve, how they will function independently and together and what leadership model they will accept. Team members open up to each other and confront each others' ideas and perspectives. In some cases storming can be resolved quickly. In others, the team never leaves this stage. The maturity of some team members usually determines whether the team will ever move out of this stage. Some team members will focus on minutiae to evade real issues.
"The storming stage is necessary to the growth of the team. It can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the team who are averse to conflict. Tolerance of each team member and their differences should be emphasized. Without tolerance and patience the team will fail. This phase can become destructive to the team and will lower motivation if allowed to get out of control. Some teams will never develop past this stage."
The norming stage is described as low enthusiasm and low skill. It can be an unpleasant place to be, and many teams never make it out of this stage:
"The team manages to have one goal and come to a mutual plan for the team at this stage. Some may have to give up their own ideas and agree with others in order to make the team function. In this stage, all team members take the responsibility and have the ambition to work for the success of the team's goals."
When (or if) a team becomes cohesive and cooperative, that's the performing stage:
"It is possible for some teams to reach the performing stage. These high-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision. By this time, they are motivated and knowledgeable. The team members are now competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channeled through means acceptable to the team. Supervisors of the team during this phase are almost always participative. The team will make most of the necessary decisions. Even the most high-performing teams will revert to earlier stages in certain circumstances. Many long-standing teams go through these cycles many times as they react to changing circumstances. For example, a change in leadership may cause the team to revert to storming as the new people challenge the existing norms and dynamics of the team."
Of course, performing teams have their own challenges. People leave, new people come in. Things change. Eventually you find yourself back at the storming stage, and trying to move though the cycle again. I know I've experienced all the stages in my professional life. I've been part of high-performing teams where we all trusted each other, relied on our strengths and compensated for our weaknesses. And I've been through turf wars where everyone was looking out for themselves. No one helped anyone and nothing of valued was accomplished.
So how are your teams doing?