What is A Cog’s Ladder? The Cog’s Ladder in A Nutshell

Cog’s ladder is a model of group development. The ladder was created in 1972 by Procter & Gamble employee George Charrier to help management at the company understand how teams worked to make them more efficient. Cog’s ladder is a model of group formation and behavior that is used to help businesses understand how a team can work to achieve its goals.

PhaseDescriptionImplicationsKey CharacteristicsExamplesApplications
1 – The Polite PhaseIn this initial phase, team members are hesitant and anxious as they come together. They tend to be reserved, polite, and cautious about revealing personal information. Some may prefer to evaluate others’ personalities before becoming more open.– Team members may hold back from expressing their true thoughts and feelings. – A focus on first impressions and not making mistakes. – Anxiety and nervousness can hinder open communication.– Politeness and caution in interactions. – A desire to avoid conflict or controversy. – Limited personal sharing.– A new project team assembles for the first time. – Team members are reserved and polite, avoiding potential conflicts. – An employee is introduced to a new department and is hesitant to share opinions.– Encourage team members to express their initial thoughts and ideas, even if cautiously. – Facilitate ice-breaking activities and open discussions. – Recognize that initial politeness may hinder productive discussions.
2 – The “Why are we here?” PhaseDuring this phase, formal introductions occur, roles and responsibilities are assigned, and the team leader clarifies expectations and goals. Communication becomes more natural, and cliques may form as individuals become more comfortable.– Improved communication and comfort among team members. – Role clarity and goal alignment. – Formation of informal groups with shared interests or skills.– Formal introductions and role assignments. – Clarification of objectives and expectations. – Increasing comfort and openness in communication. – Emergence of informal groups or cliques.– A newly formed project team holds a kickoff meeting with introductions and role assignments. – Department members begin discussing their shared project responsibilities. – A sports team’s players start to understand their respective roles.– Establish clear roles and responsibilities for team members. – Foster an environment that encourages open communication and sharing of ideas. – Be aware of the emergence of informal groups and cliques and manage them positively.
3 – The Power PhaseIn this phase, power struggles and dominance dynamics emerge. Dominant personalities may compete for authority and influence. Criticism, tension, resistance, and refutation become more common. It’s a crucial phase in establishing hierarchy.– Increased conflict and power struggles. – Assertive individuals vying for influence. – Hierarchical development of the team.– Emergence of power struggles and dominance contests. – Heightened conflict and criticism. – Assertion of ideas and strategies. – Team members decide whom to support.– During project discussions, team members with dominant personalities compete for leadership roles. – A board of directors engages in debates about the direction of the company, with assertive members leading discussions. – A committee experiences tension as members assert opposing viewpoints.– Allow power struggles to occur naturally, as they contribute to hierarchy development. – Provide a platform for assertive individuals to voice their ideas and strategies. – Mediate conflicts and encourage constructive criticism. – Assess team dynamics to identify emergent leaders.
4 – The Cooperation PhaseOnce a natural hierarchy is established, cooperation between individuals grows. The focus shifts from individual concerns to group cohesiveness. Conflict becomes more constructive, and a friendlier atmosphere prevails.– Improved cooperation and teamwork. – Focus on common goals and group cohesiveness. – Constructive conflict resolution.– Shift from individual to group goals. – Enhanced teamwork and cooperation. – Friendlier and more constructive conflict resolution. – A sense of comradeship among team members.– Team members actively collaborate on project tasks, supporting each other’s contributions. – A department identifies common objectives and aligns efforts to achieve them. – Cross-functional teams find constructive solutions to address challenges.– Foster a sense of shared purpose and group identity among team members. – Encourage open dialogue and collaborative problem-solving. – Promote a positive and cooperative atmosphere. – Develop conflict resolution skills to maintain constructive discussions.
5 – The Esprit PhaseIn this final phase, cliques formed earlier disappear as the group solidifies its collective identity. Strong informal relationships, trust, respect, and appreciation develop. Team members make a unified effort toward the goal.– Strong trust and respect among team members. – Mutual appreciation and a sense of collective identity. – Unified and concerted effort toward goals.– Disappearance of earlier cliques. – Strong informal relationships. – High levels of trust and mutual respect. – Unified and focused effort on shared objectives. – Reduced reliance on leadership for guidance.– A long-established project team functions seamlessly with members trusting and respecting each other. – A company’s leadership team works closely, fostering mutual trust and shared vision. – A sports team achieves a high level of performance and camaraderie.– Encourage and nurture trust-building activities among team members. – Reinforce a shared sense of purpose and commitment to common goals. – Empower team members to take ownership of tasks and decision-making. – Provide opportunities for self-management and reduced reliance on authoritative leadership.

Understanding Cog’s ladder

Cog’s ladder is used by team leaders to provide direction and order in groups of people often characterized by personality clashes, disruptive behavior, and nervous individuals who are reluctant to contribute.

It is important to note that Charrier’s approach does not eliminate these negative aspects entirely. Instead, leaders use the ladder to help their teams reach the most productive state as quickly as possible.

The model is quite similar to Bruce Tuckman’s 1965 team development model, which posits that as a team becomes more mature and competent, relationships form between individual team members, and the leader alters their management style to suit.

The five phases of Cog’s ladder

Charrier found five phases described a group as it transitioned from the initial meeting to a high-performance team. 

The five phases are as follows:

1 – The polite phase 

When the team comes together for the first time, most individuals will be anxious and hesitant to reveal personal information about themselves. 

Some do this because they are nervous, seek approval, or understand the importance of not making a bad first impression.

Some prefer to sit back, as it were, and evaluate the personalities of others to predict future team dynamics.

2 – The “Why are we here?” phase 

In the second phase, formal introductions and acquaintances are made and the team leader clarifies what is expected of the group and how it will be achieved. 

Roles and responsibilities are assigned and cliques may form as people with similar interests or skills coalesce. Communication becomes more natural as individuals become more comfortable with one another.

3 – The power phase

The third phase describes the inevitable power struggles that will develop in the group. Dominant personalities may compete for authority and influence as criticism, tension, resistance, and refutation becomes more common.

The team leader must let this occur with only limited intervention as it is a crucial phase in the team’s hierarchical development. Assertive individuals in the group will describe how they think the goal can be achieved, with non-assertive individuals then deciding who to support.

4 – The cooperation phase

Once a natural hierarchy has been established, increased cooperation between individuals builds momentum as each understands their role in helping the team reach its objectives. As a result, the focus shifts away from the individual and toward group cohesiveness. 

Criticism becomes more constructive and a friendlier atmosphere develops as team members see others as their comrades. When conflict does arise, the group works to find a solution that is in the common interest.

5 – The esprit phase

In the esprit phase, cliques that were formed in the second phase disappear as the group solidifies its collective identity. Strong informal relationships develop between individuals, with mutual feelings of trust, respect, and appreciation.

With all individuals making a concerted and unified effort, significant process toward the goal is made.

Since this phase is associated with the highest level of team development, there is typically less reliance on instruction and task delegation from the team leader.

Instead, the leader should focus on maintaining efficiency to ensure the work is completed on time and budget without sacrificing quality.

Key takeaways

  • Cog’s ladder is a model of group formation and behavior that is used to help businesses understand how teams can work to achieve their goals. The ladder was created in 1972 by Procter & Gamble employee George Charrier.
  • Cog’s ladder provides direction and order in groups of people that are often characterized by personality clashes, disruptive behavior, and nervous individuals who are passive and avoid contribution. The ladder does not seek to eliminate these aspects. Rather, it is intended to help team leaders guide subordinates to an efficient state as quickly as possible.
  • Charrier explained Cog’s ladder in terms of five phases: the polite phase, the “Why are we here?” phase, the power phase, the cooperation phase, and the esprit phase.

Key Highlights

  • Creation and Purpose: Cog’s ladder is a model of group formation and behavior designed to aid businesses in understanding how teams can effectively work together to achieve their goals. The ladder was created in 1972 by George Charrier, an employee at Procter & Gamble, to help improve team efficiency and dynamics.
  • Leadership and Direction: Cog’s ladder assists team leaders in providing direction and structure to groups that may initially face challenges like personality clashes, disruptive behavior, and hesitant contributors. The model doesn’t aim to eliminate these challenges but rather guides leaders in facilitating efficient progress.
  • Similarities to Tuckman’s Model: Cog’s ladder shares similarities with Bruce Tuckman’s 1965 team development model. Both models acknowledge the progression of teams from initial stages to maturity, with evolving relationships among team members and corresponding adaptations in leadership styles.
  • Five Phases of Cog’s Ladder:
    1. Polite Phase: During the initial phase, team members are cautious and reserved. Nervousness, seeking approval, and evaluating others’ personalities are common behaviors.
    2. “Why Are We Here?” Phase: This phase involves formal introductions, clarifying group expectations, assigning roles, and forming alliances based on shared interests or skills. Communication becomes more natural as comfort increases.
    3. Power Phase: Power struggles emerge as dominant personalities vie for influence. Conflict, criticism, and resistance are more frequent, as assertive individuals present ideas and non-assertive members decide whom to support.
    4. Cooperation Phase: A natural hierarchy forms, leading to increased cooperation and momentum. Individual focus shifts to group cohesiveness. Conflict resolution becomes constructive, and a friendlier atmosphere develops.
    5. Esprit Phase: Informal relationships strengthen, trust, respect, and appreciation grow. The group solidifies its identity, making a concerted effort toward the goal. The leader’s role shifts to maintaining efficiency.
  • Effective Team Development: Cog’s ladder aids in understanding the various stages teams go through as they evolve and mature. It offers insights into addressing challenges and guiding teams toward an optimal level of productivity.

Connected Agile & Lean Frameworks


AIOps is the application of artificial intelligence to IT operations. It has become particularly useful for modern IT management in hybridized, distributed, and dynamic environments. AIOps has become a key operational component of modern digital-based organizations, built around software and algorithms.


AgileSHIFT is a framework that prepares individuals for transformational change by creating a culture of agility.

Agile Methodology

Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.

Agile Program Management

Agile Program Management is a means of managing, planning, and coordinating interrelated work in such a way that value delivery is emphasized for all key stakeholders. Agile Program Management (AgilePgM) is a disciplined yet flexible agile approach to managing transformational change within an organization.

Agile Project Management

Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.

Agile Modeling

Agile Modeling (AM) is a methodology for modeling and documenting software-based systems. Agile Modeling is critical to the rapid and continuous delivery of software. It is a collection of values, principles, and practices that guide effective, lightweight software modeling.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Andon System

The andon system alerts managerial, maintenance, or other staff of a production process problem. The alert itself can be activated manually with a button or pull cord, but it can also be activated automatically by production equipment. Most Andon boards utilize three colored lights similar to a traffic signal: green (no errors), yellow or amber (problem identified, or quality check needed), and red (production stopped due to unidentified issue).

Bimodal Portfolio Management

Bimodal Portfolio Management (BimodalPfM) helps an organization manage both agile and traditional portfolios concurrently. Bimodal Portfolio Management – sometimes referred to as bimodal development – was coined by research and advisory company Gartner. The firm argued that many agile organizations still needed to run some aspects of their operations using traditional delivery models.

Business Innovation Matrix

Business innovation is about creating new opportunities for an organization to reinvent its core offerings, revenue streams, and enhance the value proposition for existing or new customers, thus renewing its whole business model. Business innovation springs by understanding the structure of the market, thus adapting or anticipating those changes.

Business Model Innovation

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Constructive Disruption

A consumer brand company like Procter & Gamble (P&G) defines “Constructive Disruption” as: a willingness to change, adapt, and create new trends and technologies that will shape our industry for the future. According to P&G, it moves around four pillars: lean innovation, brand building, supply chain, and digitalization & data analytics.

Continuous Innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Design Sprint

A design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.

Design Thinking

Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.


DevOps refers to a series of practices performed to perform automated software development processes. It is a conjugation of the term “development” and “operations” to emphasize how functions integrate across IT teams. DevOps strategies promote seamless building, testing, and deployment of products. It aims to bridge a gap between development and operations teams to streamline the development altogether.

Dual Track Agile

Product discovery is a critical part of agile methodologies, as its aim is to ensure that products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few. Dual Track Agile is an agile methodology containing two separate tracks: the “discovery” track and the “delivery” track.

eXtreme Programming

eXtreme Programming was developed in the late 1990s by Ken Beck, Ron Jeffries, and Ward Cunningham. During this time, the trio was working on the Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation System (C3) to help manage the company payroll system. eXtreme Programming (XP) is a software development methodology. It is designed to improve software quality and the ability of software to adapt to changing customer needs.

Feature-Driven Development

Feature-Driven Development is a pragmatic software process that is client and architecture-centric. Feature-Driven Development (FDD) is an agile software development model that organizes workflow according to which features need to be developed next.

Gemba Walk

A Gemba Walk is a fundamental component of lean management. It describes the personal observation of work to learn more about it. Gemba is a Japanese word that loosely translates as “the real place”, or in business, “the place where value is created”. The Gemba Walk as a concept was created by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System of lean manufacturing. Ohno wanted to encourage management executives to leave their offices and see where the real work happened. This, he hoped, would build relationships between employees with vastly different skillsets and build trust.

GIST Planning

GIST Planning is a relatively easy and lightweight agile approach to product planning that favors autonomous working. GIST Planning is a lean and agile methodology that was created by former Google product manager Itamar Gilad. GIST Planning seeks to address this situation by creating lightweight plans that are responsive and adaptable to change. GIST Planning also improves team velocity, autonomy, and alignment by reducing the pervasive influence of management. It consists of four blocks: goals, ideas, step-projects, and tasks.

ICE Scoring

The ICE Scoring Model is an agile methodology that prioritizes features using data according to three components: impact, confidence, and ease of implementation. The ICE Scoring Model was initially created by author and growth expert Sean Ellis to help companies expand. Today, the model is broadly used to prioritize projects, features, initiatives, and rollouts. It is ideally suited for early-stage product development where there is a continuous flow of ideas and momentum must be maintained.

Innovation Funnel

An innovation funnel is a tool or process ensuring only the best ideas are executed. In a metaphorical sense, the funnel screens innovative ideas for viability so that only the best products, processes, or business models are launched to the market. An innovation funnel provides a framework for the screening and testing of innovative ideas for viability.

Innovation Matrix

According to how well defined is the problem and how well defined the domain, we have four main types of innovations: basic research (problem and domain or not well defined); breakthrough innovation (domain is not well defined, the problem is well defined); sustaining innovation (both problem and domain are well defined); and disruptive innovation (domain is well defined, the problem is not well defined).

Innovation Theory

The innovation loop is a methodology/framework derived from the Bell Labs, which produced innovation at scale throughout the 20th century. They learned how to leverage a hybrid innovation management model based on science, invention, engineering, and manufacturing at scale. By leveraging individual genius, creativity, and small/large groups.

Lean vs. Agile

The Agile methodology has been primarily thought of for software development (and other business disciplines have also adopted it). Lean thinking is a process improvement technique where teams prioritize the value streams to improve it continuously. Both methodologies look at the customer as the key driver to improvement and waste reduction. Both methodologies look at improvement as something continuous.

Lean Startup

A startup company is a high-tech business that tries to build a scalable business model in tech-driven industries. A startup company usually follows a lean methodology, where continuous innovation, driven by built-in viral loops is the rule. Thus, driving growth and building network effects as a consequence of this strategy.

Minimum Viable Product

As pointed out by Eric Ries, a minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort through a cycle of build, measure, learn; that is the foundation of the lean startup methodology.

Leaner MVP

A leaner MVP is the evolution of the MPV approach. Where the market risk is validated before anything else


Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.


Jidoka was first used in 1896 by Sakichi Toyoda, who invented a textile loom that would stop automatically when it encountered a defective thread. Jidoka is a Japanese term used in lean manufacturing. The term describes a scenario where machines cease operating without human intervention when a problem or defect is discovered.

PDCA Cycle

The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle was first proposed by American physicist and engineer Walter A. Shewhart in the 1920s. The PDCA cycle is a continuous process and product improvement method and an essential component of the lean manufacturing philosophy.

Rational Unified Process

Rational unified process (RUP) is an agile software development methodology that breaks the project life cycle down into four distinct phases.

Rapid Application Development

RAD was first introduced by author and consultant James Martin in 1991. Martin recognized and then took advantage of the endless malleability of software in designing development models. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a methodology focusing on delivering rapidly through continuous feedback and frequent iterations.

Retrospective Analysis

Retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also conducted at the end of an iteration in Agile project management. Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. They are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle. These are the five stages of a retrospective analysis for effective Agile project management: set the stage, gather the data, generate insights, decide on the next steps, and close the retrospective.

Scaled Agile

Scaled Agile Lean Development (ScALeD) helps businesses discover a balanced approach to agile transition and scaling questions. The ScALed approach helps businesses successfully respond to change. Inspired by a combination of lean and agile values, ScALed is practitioner-based and can be completed through various agile frameworks and practices.


The SMED (single minute exchange of die) method is a lean production framework to reduce waste and increase production efficiency. The SMED method is a framework for reducing the time associated with completing an equipment changeover.

Spotify Model

The Spotify Model is an autonomous approach to scaling agile, focusing on culture communication, accountability, and quality. The Spotify model was first recognized in 2012 after Henrik Kniberg, and Anders Ivarsson released a white paper detailing how streaming company Spotify approached agility. Therefore, the Spotify model represents an evolution of agile.

Test-Driven Development

As the name suggests, TDD is a test-driven technique for delivering high-quality software rapidly and sustainably. It is an iterative approach based on the idea that a failing test should be written before any code for a feature or function is written. Test-Driven Development (TDD) is an approach to software development that relies on very short development cycles.


Timeboxing is a simple yet powerful time-management technique for improving productivity. Timeboxing describes the process of proactively scheduling a block of time to spend on a task in the future. It was first described by author James Martin in a book about agile software development.


Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.


Scrumban is a project management framework that is a hybrid of two popular agile methodologies: Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban is a popular approach to helping businesses focus on the right strategic tasks while simultaneously strengthening their processes.

Scrum Anti-Patterns

Scrum anti-patterns describe any attractive, easy-to-implement solution that ultimately makes a problem worse. Therefore, these are the practice not to follow to prevent issues from emerging. Some classic examples of scrum anti-patterns comprise absent product owners, pre-assigned tickets (making individuals work in isolation), and discounting retrospectives (where review meetings are not useful to really make improvements).

Scrum At Scale

Scrum at Scale (Scrum@Scale) is a framework that Scrum teams use to address complex problems and deliver high-value products. Scrum at Scale was created through a joint venture between the Scrum Alliance and Scrum Inc. The joint venture was overseen by Jeff Sutherland, a co-creator of Scrum and one of the principal authors of the Agile Manifesto.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating errors or defects in a product, service, or process. Six Sigma was developed by Motorola as a management approach based on quality fundamentals in the early 1980s. A decade later, it was popularized by General Electric who estimated that the methodology saved them $12 billion in the first five years of operation.

Stretch Objectives

Stretch objectives describe any task an agile team plans to complete without expressly committing to do so. Teams incorporate stretch objectives during a Sprint or Program Increment (PI) as part of Scaled Agile. They are used when the agile team is unsure of its capacity to attain an objective. Therefore, stretch objectives are instead outcomes that, while extremely desirable, are not the difference between the success or failure of each sprint.

Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an early form of lean manufacturing created by auto-manufacturer Toyota. Created by the Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1940s and 50s, the Toyota Production System seeks to manufacture vehicles ordered by customers most quickly and efficiently possible.

Total Quality Management

The Total Quality Management (TQM) framework is a technique based on the premise that employees continuously work on their ability to provide value to customers. Importantly, the word “total” means that all employees are involved in the process – regardless of whether they work in development, production, or fulfillment.


The waterfall model was first described by Herbert D. Benington in 1956 during a presentation about the software used in radar imaging during the Cold War. Since there were no knowledge-based, creative software development strategies at the time, the waterfall method became standard practice. The waterfall model is a linear and sequential project management framework. 

Read Also: Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

Read Next: Agile Methodology, Lean Methodology, Agile Project Management, Scrum, Kanban, Six Sigma.

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