Monday, April 11, 2011

The Stages of High Performance Teams

Teams have become an essential part of work in organizations, but as you'll know from the teams you have led or belonged to, you can't expect a new team to perform exceptionally from the very outset. Team formation takes time, and usually follows some easily recognizable stages, as the team journeys from being a group of strangers to becoming a united team with a common goal.

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first came up with the memorable phrase "forming, storming, norming and performing" back in 1965. He used it to describe the path to high-performance that most teams follow. Later, he added a fifth stage that he called "adjourning".

The first stage, forming, is characterized by a great deal of uncertainty about the group’s purpose, structure, and leadership. Members are testing the waters to determine what types of behaviors are acceptable. This stage is complete when members have begun to think of themselves as part of a team.

The storming stage is one of intragroup conflict. Members accept the existence of the team but resist the control that the group imposes on individuality. Further, there is conflict over who will control the team. When the storming stage is complete, there will be relatively clear leadership within the team.

The third stage is one in which close relationships develop and members begin to demonstrate cohesiveness. There is now a stronger sense of team identity and camaraderie. This norming stage is complete when the team structure solidifies and members have assimilated a common set of expectations of appropriate work behavior.

Performing is the fourth stage. The structure is fully functional and accepted by team members. Their energy is diverted from getting to know and understand each other to performing the necessary tasks.

For permanent teams, performing is the last stage of their development. For temporary teams – those who have a limited task to perform – there is an adjourning stage. In this stage the team prepares for its disbandment. A high level of task performance is no longer the members’ top priority. Instead, their attention is directed toward wrapping-up activities.

Tuckman's model explains that as the team develops maturity and ability, relationships establish, and the leader changes leadership style. Beginning with a directing style, moving through coaching, then participating, finishing delegating and almost detached.

Join Jeff Hajek and I for our next webinar this Friday:

8 Ways to Develop Winning 
Teams in Lean Companies
Join us for a Webinar on April 15
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
A strong team lays the foundation for continuous improvement success. In this 
30 minute webinar (plus 15 minutes for Q&A), Tim McMahon and Jeff 
Hajek explore several ways to develop a winning team in your organization.

We will be recording the show, and will make our slides available for download.

8 Ways to Develop Winning Teams in Lean Companies
Friday, April 15, 2011
9:05 AM - 9:50 AM PDT, 12:05 PM - 12:50 PM EDT

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  1. I don't agree that performing is the last stage.
    yes these are the 4 stages (or 5 depending if you take the last changes)
    For me it is a circle.
    All teams go back to forming at multiple occasions.
    Like a new team member joins the team or a team member leaves the team, or a new boss or another project, or maybe even when they are out of coffee.
    Important to mention is that most teams never pass the storming phase.
    Teams that do pass the storming phase and fall back to forming for whatever reason are quicker to come back to norming.

  2. Tim,

    Nice summary of the Storming-Norming model. There is a lot of value in that team building model. I'd like to make your webenar Friday but I have a conflict....


  3. Chris, The webinar was recorded and should be available for viewing in about a week. I will send out a post when it is ready.