Posted: 20th Mar 2018
You can’t expect a new team to perform well when it first comes together. Forming a team takes time and employees often go through recognisable stages as they change from being strangers to a united group.
Bruce Tuckman's forming, norming, storming and performing model describes these stages. When you understand it, you can help your new team become effective more quickly.
Forming - most team members are positive and polite. Some are anxious; they haven't fully understood what work the team will do. Others are simply excited about the task ahead.
This stage can last for some time. People start to work together and make an effort to get to know their new colleagues.
Leaders play a dominant role at this stage; because team members' roles and responsibilities aren't clear.
Storming - the team moves into the storming phase. People start to push against the boundaries established in the forming stage. This is the stage where many teams fail.
Storming often starts where there is a conflict between team members' natural working styles. People may work in different ways for all sorts of reasons but, if differing working styles cause unforeseen problems, they may become frustrated.
Storming can also happen in different situations. For example, team members may challenge your authority, people may feel overwhelmed by their workload, or they could be uncomfortable with the approach you're using.
Some may question the worth of the team's goal, and they may resist taking on tasks. Some team members who stick with the task may experience stress, particularly as they don't have the support of established processes or strong relationships with their colleagues.
Norming – the team moves into the norming stage. This is when people start to resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues' strengths, and respect the leader’s authority.
Now that your team members know one another better, they may socialise together more, ask one another for help and provide constructive feedback. People develop a stronger commitment to the team goal, and you start to see good progress towards it.
There is often a long-lasting overlap between storming and norming. New tasks come up; the team may slip back into behaviour from the storming stage.
Performing - the team reaches the performing stage. Hard work leads without friction to the achievement of the team's goal. The structures and processes that you have set up support this well.
Leaders can delegate work, and concentrate on developing team members. It feels easy to be part of the team at this stage, and people who join or leave won't disrupt performance.
Building a team isn’t easy. It is a process. Knowing each stage of development can help you create all-star teams that deliver amazing results.