Teaming Up & Taking Teamwork to the Next Level: Group Development

Teamwork makes the dream work, so they say, but how exactly do you build or participate in teams that are highly functional and successful? We’ve all experienced that failed group project or unproductive committee where things just…fizzled out, or a few people are left doing all the work begrudgingly. Teams need a goal and purpose as well as the combined, energized efforts of committed individuals. Whether you’re running a non-profit organization, trying to organize a community event, managing a small business venture or a multi-national corporation, you need teams that produce results.

This month’s blog series is all about forming and leading teams and exploring what impacts them – both negatively and positively – such as conflict, conformity, deviation and cohesion. For anyone involved in a team, it’s important to learn about group dynamics and interactions, building morale, and understanding what it is that makes a team effective.

Team development: Forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning

Let’s start with one of the most popular theories on group development, which was first shaped by psychologist Bruce Tuckman back in 1965. This model presents 5 stages of teams (the fifth was added in later years) and how the group or team cycle evolves:

  • Forming

This first phase is just as the name implies; it’s the orientation period when a new team is put together before any real work gets started. It’s also a bit like a honeymoon phase as people tend to be extra courteous, eager or even a bit nervous about the task ahead. While everyone familiarizes themselves it’s an opportunity to clarify goals, roles, responsibilities and timelines.

  • Storming

This second stage of group development is often where things can go south quickly. As the project or task deadline looms closer, people start to notice others’ more negative characteristics or other problems start to build once the honeymoon period winds down. This is why it’s called the ‘storming’ phase. During this time, strong communication (including conflict resolution skills), clarity of roles, and a clearly outlined process are needed to help get to the next, more productive stages.

  • Norming

In the norming stage, the magic starts to happen. The team becomes normalized, meaning differences are resolved, everyone is clear on who does what, team strengths are revealed, and stronger commitments to the task are formed. People can get down to work as a productive, cooperative unit and start seeing results trickle in. Don’t be alarmed if there is an occasional lapse back into the storming stage, especially if people leave or join the group or tasks/goals are changed mid-stream.

  • Performing

By reaching this stage, it shows your group has been motivated to reach their goals and achieve success with their project through strong team performances, good morale and focus. You can see real results, even with the odd setback or obstruction. The final goal is within reach, and chances of failure are minimized.

  • Adjourning

After the project or task is completed, the group or committee disbands. This is called the adjourning phase, which is also seen as a mourning period for some as they adjust to the change of routine or the social loss of the group.

Roles & responsibilities

As we have learned from this brief overview of Tuckman’s 5 stages of group development, successful teams don’t just appear out of nowhere. There are hurdles to overcome and milestones to reach when embarking on any new project. Further, each person needs to understand their roles and responsibilities, which may need to be adjusted on an ‘as-needed’ basis for the benefit of the long-term goal.

Leadership emergence & its role in team building

A successful team needs good leadership; someone who will be able to make big decisions on the fly, recognize each person’s strengths (and work those to the project’s advantage) and someone who’s intuitive. Leaders don’t have to be a big boss or CEO, in fact, some leaders will emerge naturally in a group or team and bring it to new, unexpected heights. To show strong leadership, these are some of the key traits needed:

  • Open-mindedness
  • Being able to delegate (and avoid micro-managing)
  • Integrity
  • Confidence
  • Positivity and a good sense of humour
  • Strong communication and conflict resolution skills

No matter what your team or group goal is, it’s important to cultivate a good environment in order to see achievement. There’s a lot hinging on your project’s success, and it starts with understanding how teams work best. What’s been your most impressive team experience? Share in the comments below.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb