Professor Bruce Tuckman1 argues that all teams go through four stages, and the better we understand the stages, the more quickly we can move through them.
Which stage is your team in?
The first stage of team building. Members want to be accepted and avoid conflict. They focus on routines and organization. They gather impressions about each other and the task. Everyone is polite: not much gets done.
The members address the problems they need to solve. They confront one another’s ideas. Some teams resolve storming quickly. Others never leave this stage.
The team identifies a goal and makes plans to reach the goal. Members compromise to make the team work. Members take responsibility and work to achieve the team’s goal.
Only some teams reach the performing stage. They function as a team and get the job done smoothly and effectively. They depend on one another.
They expect dissent and channel it appropriately. While supervisors participate, the team makes most of the decisions.
Some performing teams revert to earlier stages. A change in leadership may cause the team to revert to storming as the new people challenge the existing norms and dynamics of the team.
1Bruce Tuckman is a professor of Educational Psychology at Ohio State University and the Founding Director of the Walter E. Dennis Learning Center. He introduced his model in 1965. He believes all phases are necessary and inevitable for a team to solve problems, plan work, and deliver results.
The model inspired many other models.