The Four Stages of Team Development

Team Development

Generally, a team goes through Four Stages of Team Development. Each stage of team development presents its own special challenges to a group of people striving to work together successfully by forming a cohesive team

Stages of Team Development

The only way to get people to like working hard is to motivate them. Today, people must understand why they are working hard. Every individual in an organization is motivated by something different.

Rick Pitino

Bruce Tuckman in 1965 proposed a model for group development. The Forming-Storming-Norming- Performing model of group development explains the four phases of the development of any team as Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. According to Tuckman, the four phases are essential and unavoidable for a team’s development and growth. The processes in each phase are required for facing challenges, for resolving day-today issues, for finding solutions, planning for work and finally they play a key role in delivering result.

Many contemporary models that come up have their basis in this model.

Let us understand the phases in this model and how we can use this model to build a highly effective team.

Its easy to figure out who isnt a team player. Theyll constantly remind the coach just how good they are.

Brian G. Jett

A very well known life-saving Drug Company was unable to handle the transition that was happening due to the CEO’s retirement. The teams at the higher level were upset and the system was gradually collapsing. Instead of feeling dejected about it, the organization engaged the employees in team building activities and invested in training them on collaboration. They started developing teams from scratch and that worked wonders for them.

The Four Phases

Tuckman marks the four phases as forming, storming, norming and performing.

In the forming phase, the purpose of forming the team is discussed, the tasks are defined and assigned, timelines are established and personal connect is formed within team members.

Goals are established and strategies are formed to achieve them in the storming phase of team development.

The third phase of norming is marked by creating rules and a value system within the team to mark a system of interaction and collaboration.

The final stage is performing where a team is already established well and is marked by productivity, efficiency and effectiveness owing to prolific relationships within the team.

The usual notion is that the teams move progressively from one phase to another. However, in my experience, I have seen that the phases may get overlapped or repeated at times.

Phase 1- Forming

In this phase, there is just a group of individuals. These individuals are involved in the following activities:

  1. Define and align tasks
  2. Create a schedule
  3. Organize work within the team
  4. And deal with other challenges that they face at the beginning of the project.
  5. Information is gathered and impressions are formed among the team members.
  6. Conflict is usually avoided during this stage because people want to form a good impression on each other.
  7. Culture of collaboration is missing from the group at this phase Team members may begin to work on their tasks independently, not yet focused on their relationships with fellow team members.
If you put good people in bad systems you get bad results. You have to water the flowers you want to grow.

Stephen R. Covey

Phase 2- Storming

This phase of team development is called so because of the brainstorming that is an important part of this phase. Now that team development has been initiated, the members chalk out individual as well as group activities.

  1. Goals and activities are planned and chalked out for individuals and collective tasks.
  2. Brainstorming is done to generate ideas about the tasks that need to be done and the process that we follow in order to do that task.
  3. Team members begin to know each other and are comfortable with each other.
  4. Conflicts and disagreement may arise at this stage because the impressions are already formed and people do not worry about hurting each other’s concerns. This phase may get uncomfortable and unpleasant for people who avoid conflict.
  5. This is a contentious phase also because people might get de-motivated at this stage due to rising conflicts and disagreements.
  6. Also the effort on tasks decreases considerably as the focus is on brainstorming.

The storming phase is usually resolved without much incident but occasionally it may take a toll on team members, if prolonged.

Patience, commitment, and consideration are the skills required to breeze through this phase.

Phase 3- Norming

Defining a clear purpose and strategy to move towards it mark the end of the second phase.

The third phase is norming, where a value system is made for the team.

In this stage,

  1. Values are shared and a system is created so that team members can work in tandem.
  2. Norms are set to create the culture of collaboration.
  3. When to use which mode of communication is discussed.
  4. How and when to conduct team huddles and meetings, is also decided.
  5. The expectations are shared and norms invariably make collaboration and choices simpler.

By the end of the stage, the group starts functioning as one unit and is ready to enter into the final stage, Performing.

Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.

Stephen R. Covey

Phase 4- Performing

Performing is the final stage of team development. According to Tucker, the team is in the performing stage when the norms are made and the team begins to function as a unit.

This phase is marked by the following:

  1. Team members work together and at the same time handle tasks independently.
  2. They communicate with ease and coordinate without any problem.
  3. Distractions are majorly reduced and less time consuming as compared to any other phase.
  4. Team members are usually highly motivated and are able, willing and confident of themselves to attain goals.

While the four phases are generally in sequence, you may find that sometimes they overlap and many times blend with each other.

A team may return to a phase if there is a change in the dynamics, like promotions, transfers, additions to the team, new goals etc.

Let us see a trust building activity that you can use to bund the team together.

A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox 


Activity Trust Me!
Material None
Time Five Minutes
Settings Enough space for all the participants to stand in pairs
Activity Instructions Divide the participants into two groups. Ask them to stand in two rows such that each member of first row stands in front of each member of the second row with his or her back facing the members of the second row. On the count of three, ask the people standing in the first row fall on their corresponding partners in the second row. Ask them to continue till every member is able to fall properly and the partner is able to catch him or her properly. Then ask the pairs to turn 180 degrees and repeat the exercise. This time the partner who caught first falls and the partner who fell first catches.

Ensure that you tell them that it is dangerous in case the partner standing behind is unable to catch.

For the person falling- stand with your back straight arms falling straight on the sides and feet together. When falling, they must ensure that they do not bend their legs.

Notes It is important that you trust the person standing behind you because if you do not, you will not be able to fall with the confidence of getting caught. It is important for the partner standing behind to keep that trust intact. Because if the trust is broken, it is difficult to regain it.
Debrief As well as getting people moving, this is a very powerful demonstration of trust. There is inevitable team building and ice-breaking because of the closeness required between pairs.

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