In 1965, Bruce W. Tuckman, a well-respected psychologist from Princeton University, developed his four stages of team growth, known as “Tuckman’s Stages.”1 These stepping stones in team development – Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing – are all necessary in order for a group to function effectively. Then in 1977, Tuckman working in conjunction with Mary Ann Jensen, added a fifth stage: Adjourning.2 So, in its entirety, the Five Stages of Team Development are:
But what do they mean?
Stage One: Forming
This stage occur when the team first meets. This could also be called the introduction stage. Team members share their backgrounds, interests, and experiences with the rest of the group, as first impressions begin to form.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
- Andrew Grant
This is also the moment when the team learns about the project they will be working on together – their individual and team objectives and goals, their roles, etc. During this initial stage of team development, it is very important for the team leader to be clear, to set realistic expectations, and to listen to team members. At this point, the team is very reliant on the team leader to guide them, but individual roles are beginning to form.
Stage Two: Storming
This is the where team members begin to but heads as they have different opinions regarding the project and compete with one another for status and for acceptance of their ideas. Every team goes through this and it is unavoidable, but it can be handled in a positive and meaningful way. At this stage, it is up to the team leader to manage conflict and ensure idea sharing is done as productively as possible.
“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
- Ronald Reagan
For team members who do not like conflict, this is a difficult stage to go through, but this is also the point where real teamwork begins to develop. Team members start to settle into their individual roles and learn to put aside their differences and listen to opposing viewpoints in order to solve problems as a unit. However, without strong leadership, a team may struggle to survive the Storming stage and the entire project may be spent in conflict.
Once the team leader has the group functioning at a high level, he/she can begin to transition some decision making to the team to allow them more independence.
Stage Three: Norming
This is the stage where the team begins to function as a cohesive unit, no longer focused on individual goals. Team members have learned how to express their opinions in a respectful way, communicate displeasure or disapproval in a productive manner, and resolve conflict quickly and efficiently. This is the stage where team members begin to trust one another.
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
- Stephen Covey
In the Norming stage, collaboration and trust are second nature. Thus, productivity is high as the team relies less and less on the team leader for guidance and support. On occasion, however, the team leader may step in to move things along if the team gets stuck.
Stage Four: Performing
In this stage, the focus is on reaching the final goal of the team. The team is highly motivated to get the job done. Group members now trust one another, communicate openly and honestly, and rely on one another with little to no hesitation. They can make decisions and problem solve quickly and effectively, and can now function without guidance and supervision, working as an independent unit.
“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.”
- James Cash Penney
The team leader will continue to monitor progress, but has very little involvement in the minutia of the group. Unfortunately, not every team makes it to Stage Four. Many stop at Stage Three: Norming. And even in the Performing stage, there is the possibility that the team may revert back to another stage.
Team development is a constant struggle and one that requires help at times.
Stage Five: Transforming
This stage refers to the dissolving of the group, likely after it has completed its task(s) and hence fulfilled its purpose. The team leader should take the time to celebrate the team’s success and evaluate performance. This is also the time for team members to reflect on the project and say their good-byes.
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
- Vince Lombardi
Corporate Team Building is the Key to Team Development
“Team developmental interventions are key mechanisms that may be used to facilitate team effectiveness.” – Raymond Noe, author of Employee Training and Development.
Conveniently located in Howard County, Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington DC, Terrapin Adventures specializes in team development. Our custom team building programs are designed to improve communication, trust, productivity, and help your tea progress through the stages of team development.
If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
- Caum, Lorenzo Orlando. “The Four Stages of Group Development by Bruce W. Tuckman – Lorenzo Orlando Caum.” Lorenzo Orlando Caum. 15 Mar. 2011. Web. 09 May 2016.
- Abudi, Gina. “The Five Stages of Team Development: A Case Study.” Project Smart. 9 May 2010. Web. 9 May 2016.
- Noe, R. A. (2002). Employee training and development (2nd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.