Forming the Team: Tuckman Part 1

Forming the Team: Team Work 101

Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning.

Tuckman Part 1 – Managing the Forming Stage

Forming the team is an essential part of the Tuckman model of how groups/teams Forming the teamdevelop. Most groups go through a formation process like that described by Dr Tuckman. If you understand the model it can help you to lead, manage and facilitate teams and work groups more effectively.

Some group leaders find the stages uncomfortable – they can be challenging to handle. Some stages seem slow and a waste of precious work time. But if you go through them, it means a more cohesive and efficient work-group is formed – a group that allows everyone to contribute their best!

A skilled manager can observe the stages happening and help the process along. That means you get the best outcome for all in the least time.

In a short series of posts, I’m going to discuss how you can lead your group through the stages to achieve a good result. You can find the second post in this series on Stage 2 Managing Storming Teams at this link.

Forming the team

When they first come together in a group, people are cautious.  Usually, they want to get to know each other and get on with the task.  But, they might be a bit anxious.  They are usually tentative and tend to check each other out. Generally, they are polite and somewhat reserved.

The group wants to work out how they should behave.  At this stage, they are not likely to challenge each other or you, as their leader. They want to understand properly why they are there – what is the task and what is this really about?  The group wants to know what they are being asked to do and how they are expected to do it.

No one feel very comfortable. Perhaps there any hidden agendas.

They are looking for the “ground rules”.

This stage can feel frustrating for the leader, because things can feel as if they are moving very slowly.

Lead the group through forming the team

So what can you do?  Well, you need to provide a safe environment in which the group can operate and you need to set some goals for them to achieve.

But let then have some time to get to know each other! Therefore, allow people an opportunity to share their hopes and their anxieties.  You might recognise now why trained facilitators put so much store by ice-breakers.

If you pace the group carefully, they will move through forming the team and not get stuck.  Encourage them all to contribute.

What if they get stuck in Stage 1 – Forming the Team

If they get stuck then you will need to become more directive.

  • Involve them in setting the goals
  • Let them air their reservations.
  • Get those ground rules out in the open air
  • Get people to agree the ground rules.
  • Support anyone who shows reticence so that their confidence develops.

Then stand by because you need to go through Stage 2 Storming before the real work begins. Stage 2 can be turbulent. Information on how to handle that stage will follow here shortly.

Other posts on the Tuckman model are to follow.

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link

         

Team Work; Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. Part 1 – Managing the Forming Stage

In a recent post at this link, I introduced the Tuckman theory of how groups/teams develop.

Most groups go through a formation process like that described by Dr Tuckman.

Understanding the model can help you to lead, manage and facilitate teams and work groups more effectively.

Some group leaders find the stages uncomfortable – they can be challenging to handle. Some stages seem slow and a waste of precious work time. But going through them means that a more cohesive and efficient working group is formed – a group that allows everyone to contribute their best!

A skilled manager can observe the stages happening and help the process along.  That means you get the best outcome for all in the least time.

In this short series of posts, I’m going to discuss how you can lead your group through the stages to achieve a good result.

Stage 1 – Forming.

When they first come together in a group, people are cautious.  Usually, they want to get to know each other and to get on with the task.  But, they might be a bit anxious.  They are usually tentative and tend to check each other out. Generally they are polite and somewhat reserved.

The group wants to work out how they should behave.  At this stage, they are not likely to challenge each other or you, as their leader. They want to understand properly why they are there – what is the task and what is this really about?  The group wants to know what they are being asked to do and how they expected to do it.

No one feel very comfortable – are there any hidden agendas?

They are looking for the “ground rules”.

This stage can feel frustrating for the leader because things can feel as if they are moving very slowly.

Leading the group through Stage 1 – Forming

So what can you do?  Well, you need to provide a safe environment in which the group can operate and you need to set some goals for them to achieve.

But let then have some time to get to know each other! Allow people an opportunity to share their hopes and their anxieties.  (You might recognise now why trained facilitators put so much store by ice-breakers).

If you pace the group carefully, they will move through this stage and not get stuck.  Encourage them all to contribute.

What if they get stuck in Stage 1 – Forming

If they get stuck then you will need to become more directive.

  • Involve them in setting the goals
  • Let them air their reservations.
  • Get those ground rules out in the open air
  • Get people to agree the ground rules.
  • Support anyone who shows reticence so that their confidence develops.

Then stand by because you need to go through Stage 2 Storming before the real work begins and Stage 2 can be turbulent.

You can find other posts in this series at these links;  Stage 1 Forming, Stage 2 Storming, Stage 3 Norming, Stage 4 Performing and Stage 5 Adjourning

Wendy Smith is a personal coach and writer at Wisewolf Coaching. She is a qualified coach and a member of the Association for Coaching as well as being a member of the Institute of Consulting and a graduate of the Common Purpose leadership programme.  Wendy is author of “The WiseWolf Job Search Pocket Book: How to Win Jobs and Influence Recruiters” as well as two novels and a number of articles on management and well-being. Her latest publication is a little eBook; “How to Get on With the Boss.”  You can contact Wendy at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Team Work; forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning with Dr Tuckman

Bruce Tuckman  is best known for a short article, ‘Developmental sequence in small groups’,  first published in 1965.

Never heard of him? Well, I expect you  have heard of his theory –  he wrote about Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing!

Now I love Dr Tuckman’s theory, so I was even happier when he added a  fifth stage (Adjourning) in the 1970s to cover the end-game in his explanation of how groups develop.

Dr Tuckman is now professor of Educational Psychology at the Ohio State University, where he is also Founding Director of the Walter E. Dennis Learning Center.  He has focused on motivation and he has gone on to look at how interventions such as goal setting, planning, and incentives affect behaviour. He has also written a novel The Long Road to Boston (1988).

The first four-stage model evolved out of his observations of group behaviour in a variety of settings and his encounter with the literature; including psychoanalytic studies of therapy or T-groups.

After completing his doctorate, Dr Tuckman worked with the industrial psychology lab at Princeton and went on to research small-group and organizational behaviour.  He was part of a small group of social psychologists in a think tank studying small group behaviour to help the US Navy prepare for modern vessels and stations with small crews.

He thought that if people could better understand how groups develop, it would be possible to improve group effectiveness and functioning.

This is how Dr Tuckman described the stages in his original article:

“Groups initially concern themselves with orientation accomplished primarily through testing. Such testing serves to identify the boundaries of both interpersonal and task behaviors. Coincident with testing in the interpersonal realm is the establishment of dependency relationships with leaders, other group members, or pre‑existing standards. It may be said that orientation, testing and dependence constitute the group process of forming.

The second point in the sequence is characterized by conflict and polarization around interpersonal issues, with concomitant emotional responding in the task sphere. These behaviors serve as resistance to group influence and task requirements and may be labeled as storming.

Resistance is overcome in the third stage in which in-group feeling and cohesiveness develop, new standards evolve, and new roles are adopted. In the task realm, intimate, personal opinions are expressed. Thus, we have the stage of norming.

Finally, the group attains the fourth and final stage in which interpersonal structure becomes the tool of task activities. Roles become flexible and functional, and group energy is channeled into the task. Structural issues have been resolved, and structure can now become supportive of task performance. This stage can be labeled as performing.” (Tuckman 1965 – page 78 in the 2001 reprint)

In 1977 Dr Tuckman proposed an update of the model (in collaboration with Mary Ann Jensen).  Later he commented: We reviewed 22 studies that had appeared since the original publication of the model and which we located by means of the Social Sciences Citation Index. These articles, one of which dubbed the stages the ‘Tuckman hypothesis’ tended to support the existence of the four stages but also suggested a fifth stage for which a perfect rhyme could not be found. We called it ‘adjourning’. (Tuckman 1984)

Adjourning involves dissolution. It entails the termination of roles, the completion of tasks and reduction of dependency (Forsyth 1990: 77).  This stage can be seen as ‘mourning’ – there has been a loss and this is often felt by former participants. This can be stressful – particularly where the dissolution is unplanned.  In project management, for example, managing this end game requires particular skills in the project manager if the work of the team is going to be fully valued.

There have been many debates around the Tuckman theory and the need for a model of group development.  But I fully believe the claim that small groups tend to follow a fairly predictable path. That has certainly been my experience but I’d be very interested to hear the views of others.

Wendy Smith is a career and life coach with depth of experience in career coaching, business coaching and personal development. She helps clients find a new career direction, start-up new businesses and achieve a better work/life balance. You can contact Wendy at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Other useful articles

  • Team Work; forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning with Dr Tuckman
  • Team Work; Forming, Storming, Norming,Performing and Adjourning. Part 1 – Managing the Forming Stage
  • Team Work; Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. Part 2 – Managing the Storming Stage
  • Team Work; Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning Part 3 – Managing the Norming Stage
  • Team Work; Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. Part 4 – Managing the Performing Stage
  • Team Work; Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. Part 5 – Managing the Adjourning Stage