Team Development

In 1965 Dr. Bruce Tuckman published his Theory of Developmental Sequence in Small Groups. His model addresses how groups change over time, and identifies stages of team development. These stages are: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Tuckman's model helps us to identify predictable stages that a group experiences as it progresses from being a collection of individuals to a cohesive team working together to achieve a common goal.

Below is Tuckman's diagram of the Team Development Stages:

When a group of individuals come together to create a team they have an opportunity to enter the forming stage. In this orientation period the members of the team are learning about each other: the skills, knowledge and expertise that each of them can contribute to the group.

Following the forming stage it is common for teams to move into a stage that Tuckman has called storming. With members of the team taking on specific roles and responsibilities this is a time when individuals vie for positions within the group. It can be a time of confusion as the team learns to communicate effectively and also struggles for control.

Once the team moves through the storming stage, Tuckman suggests that the team moves to a stage called norming. During this stage the team has a sense of unity. The roles within the team are established and the team reaches consensus on determining its collective goals and objectives.

Once the team begins to norm together they work toward the performing stage. This is when teams are functioning at their peak performance. At this point, the team has acknowledged the skills, and expertise that individuals bring to the team and they are working as a cohesive unit.

Tuckman's theory did not end with peak performance. He later wrote that the final stage is adjourning. Adjourning happens either when one or more individuals leave the team and new members join the team, or the team goal was achieved. This ending of the team is just as important to acknowledge as the beginning.2

For a group in which the task is clearly defined and is perceived by all members as important, the first three stages may be dealt with in the first few hours of meeting. However for most groups it takes longer to move through these stages and this process needs to be anticipated. Project managers, particularly those involving people from different parts of the organisation, need to plan for and allow time for group development.

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1 Tuckman, 1965, pages 384-399
2 Tuckman & Jensen, 1977, pages 419-427

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