You Can Survive and Thrive in the 4 Team Stages

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing


The Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model relates to groups and was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Bruce theorised that these four stages are necessary for all groups coming together.

I have seen this in action too many times to discard this as another theory. This relates not only to new groups coming together, but also to groups going through a fundamental change, for example a new powerful senior joining the group – or when you yourself join an already established group as the new Team Leader.

It is important to recognise these stages for what they are in order to understand what is happening and assist the group as much as you can through them all.

Forming

Forming is the stage where all the team members are getting to know each other. No-one is certain where they stand with the other team members. Members each hold a desire to be accepted by others and avoid conflict.

Members are keen to show how they can contribute, and concentrate on getting to know each other and the tasks they will be doing. The team concentrates on organising itself and setting up meetings and discussions.

The stage can last weeks, or it may last just a single meeting. This depends on both the project and the people involved.

As conflict is avoided, this is a very comforting stage to be in, however not a lot gets done to deliver the outcome during this stage. Even still, its an important stage for the team.

Tip
As the Team Leader this is your time to direct the team and establish goals. Enjoy the fact that team members will listen and be eager to do whatever is asked during this phase. Set the groundwork in order to focus on delivering the project. Don’t get trapped into “being the boss”, but use the stage to organise the project, who does what, get ideas from everyone, but stay focussed on the project. This helps the team get things done.

Storming

Storming is both your worst time and your best time. Storming happens when team members start to get to know each other and the reality of the project starts to set in.

During this time members may feel uncomfortable with the way things are being done.

Warning: this is a stage where you may find that your authority is challenged. Team members may question why the project is being done in the first place and why they are here. You may even get threats of members walking away because they feel too much pressure. Some may find it just too much, especially you.

This stage could last anything from a day or so, to a number of weeks, it depends on the team. The honeymoon is over, it’s now time to get to work.

Tip
There is no doubt, this is the most difficult stage but you must remain positive and firm. Your day will be fully taken up with the team so its important that you have delegated tasks correctly in order to focus on the team.

Gain the support of the stronger team members if you can, but I’m not talking about leadership support, I’m talking about project and directional support. Not to turn the team against the nay-sayers, but to slowly turn the team towards the “Norming” stage.

During this stage you may find team members take you aside and tell you they have had enough and they want to leave. Recognise this for what it is – stress. The answer to this direct threat should be along the lines of the following…

“Leaving the team is your choice. I’m not going to stop you making a choice, however I sincerely hope that you will think this through. The team needs you. The team needs your skills. [here explain the 4 stages of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing and explain that you are in the Storming stage]. Leaving the team now is entirely your decision but I think you’ll do a fabulous job and once the team gets through this storming stage, I think you’ll find it a really great place to be.” Then give the person encouragement, pointing out a couple of things they may have done or said that has helped the team or project.

You as the team leader should work to establish process, smooth conflict, build relationships, and provide support to both the team and the individuals.

Another Tip
It is also important to remember to support your up-line as well – your boss. It may be that your boss has had one or two, or a whole delegation go to them. Keep in regular contact with your boss, explain the four stages to him\her, and explain how your team is working through them. Also explain that he\she may get individuals going to him, so ask your boss for his\her support through this. Tell him\her that when they get team members complaining, explain that this is when you need his\her support the most. Explain that this stage will be over soon.

Norming

After the Storming, the team moves into the Norming stage. The team is maturing and members have worked out their place in the team, come to respect each other and you, and generally works together.

The team probably socialises with each other during this stage. You will note that team members feel more at ease to help each other and ask for help when needed. Things are finally getting done.

By aware that the team can easily slip back into Storming for short periods as new work commitments come into play but this should sort itself out easily.

Tip
This is a time to step back and settle into an overseeing role. Here you are looking to make things go as smoothly as possible for the team to allow the team to work uninterrupted. Beware of micro-managing (managing every detail), as this stage shows the team can pick up and deliver. Let them; you’re there to protect the team and allow it to work. Ensure that the team knows where to be best directed (in more of a “project management” way), and give feedback on progress.

This is also a good time for team building exercises in the form of a social event or some fun activity.

Performing

The team knows the what, the how and the who at this stage and project milestones are being reached. It is during this stage that some team members may come and go without unduly affecting the team. It is a thoroughly enjoyable place to be as the team supports the project and you. You’ll feel like you finally made it.

Tip
Delegate, delegate, delegate. Concentrate on the project direction, the team members, and the processes. Never lose sight of the need to make sure your manager knows how well the team is performing as feedback from outside the team helps individuals from heading into drudgery. The team needs to know its doing good from sources outside of itself.

Long may it last.

 

 

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