Sometimes the oldies are the goodies and Tuckman’s Team Development Model is up there with the best. Born out of the 1960’s, the model has barely changed suggesting it still resonates despite changing business models, environments and technological disruption. But read with caution as although the model explains behaviour traits, culture and context will also effect how well a team performs.
So why has this model stood the test of time? Tuckman, an educational psychologist identified 4 stages of group development shortly after leaving Princeton in 1965. He recognised the distinct phases they go through, and suggested a team needs to experience all four before achieving maximum effectiveness… I wonder how many of you have reached stage 4??
Stage 1: Forming
We’ve all been there, new team, new people, new leadership? In fact we’re probably regularly experiencing this – why? because work is becoming more project based, less rooted in one physical location and globally influenced. Have you ever wondered why colleagues avoid conflict and try to make alliances at this stage? It’s the forming stage and it’s pretty comfortable BUT beware avoiding conflict and threat does mean not that much gets done!
Stage 2: Storming
Honeymoon over! People in a group can only remain nice to each for so long… I mean look at all the great bands who have folded following the ‘I’d like to pursue my own solo career shocker!!’ To prevent regression to forming, clarity around roles and responsibilities is key at this stage along with structure and rules.
Stage 3: Norming
This is the time to establish the ongoing ways of working or “rules of engagement”. Foster empathy and appreciation of each other’s skills and experience and the team will gel. However, individuals have had to work hard to attain this stage, and may resist any pressure to change – especially from the outside – for fear that the group will break up, or revert to a storm!
Stage 4: Performing
The hardest stage of all and one that few attain but when you do it’s Brian Cox style, AMAY-zing. It’s a state of interdependence and flexibility. Everyone knows each other well enough to be able to work together, and trusts each other enough to allow independent activity. Roles and responsibilities change according to need in an almost seamless way. Group identity, loyalty and morale are all high, and everyone is equally task-orientated and people-orientated. Sounds great doesn’t it? Yes but we all know So Tuckman added a fifth and final stage
Stage 5: Adjoining
All good things have to come to an end. The break-up of the group, hopefully when the task is completed successfully, is the final stage. Coping with the split can be tough for team members especially if they’ve been living the dream for a long time. Leaders should recognise this especially if teams members have strong routine and empathy styles. Tuckman’s fifth stage is helpful, particularly if members of the group have been closely bonded and feel a sense of insecurity or threat from this change. Feelings of insecurity would be natural for people with high ‘steadiness’ attributes