Tuckman suggested groups transition through five stages of development, starting from the time the group first meets until project completion. As members of the team become familiar with each other, the team itself becomes more mature as relationships become established. During the developmental phase, the leader of the group also adopts a new leadership style. Tuckman’s stages of group development were developed by psychologist Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Tuckman’s stages of group development is a concise and elegant framework for team development and behavior.
Understanding Tuckman’s stages of group development
Tuckman suggested groups transition through five stages of development, starting from the time the group first meets until project completion. As members of the team become familiar with each other, the team itself becomes more mature as relationships become established. During the developmental phase, the leader of the group also adopts a new leadership style.
The model offers a relatively simple way to understand how groups evolve and is particularly useful in helping individuals work together as a cohesive unit. The model is also similar to the Tannenbaum and Schmidt continuum and Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership tool – both of which having been developed around the same time.
The five stages of Tuckman’s group development model
Let’s now take a look at the five stages a group progresses through:
- Forming – during the first stage, individual team members are introduced to each other. The atmosphere is formal and polite, but most members are excited to begin work and get to know their new colleagues. Personal skills, background, and interests are discussed. So too are project goals, timelines, ground rules, and individual roles.
- Storming – in the storming stage, the realities of having to complete the task are beginning to sink in. Excitement is replaced with frustration and anger, which causes some personalities to clash. At this point, the team can either become frustrated with the flaws of others or choose to accept them.
- Norming – here, team members start to notice and appreciate the unique strengths of their colleagues. There is also a realization that a variety of opinions and experiences ultimately make the team stronger. As a result, individuals feel they are part of something larger, which increases team cohesion and effectiveness.
- Performing – during the fourth stage, members are satisfied with the team’s process toward a goal. They feel confident in their abilities and also in the abilities of colleagues. Roles and responsibilities may also become more fluid as help is provided to those who need it.
- Adjourning – once the goal has been achieved, the team recognizes individual contributions and then disbands. This is sometimes called the mourning stage because members feel a sense of loss after separating from those they’ve shared a meaningful experience with. Any lessons learned from the process should be passed to a responsible person for use by future teams.
Why is Tuckman’s model important?
Tuckman’s model is important because it increases group effectiveness. Many businesses make the mistake of assuming teams operate at the fourth or performing stage indefinitely.
However, assembling a bunch of talented individuals in a room does not automatically result in a talented group. Here are some general tips to use in conjunction with the five stages:
- Set a clear purpose – and then revisit it at regular intervals. Purpose defines the framework for which all subsequent decisions are made.
- Set ground rules – if nothing else, rules define acceptable standards of behavior. Each person has their own style of working. Left to their own devices, these styles conflict with others and cause inefficiencies and a lack of productivity.
- Identify a facilitator – a good facilitator enforces the ground rules and drives the group forward. The most effective teams can rotate leaders regularly to avoid burnout without affecting their performance.
- Accept conflict – conflict should not be avoided but accepted as a natural and healthy consequence of individuals in a group voicing their own opinions. How conflict is managed determines whether the group improves existing processes and strengthens the bonds between individuals.
- Participation – group participation is vital since the group is only as strong as its weakest link. Every member should be instilled with a sense of responsibility for completing their assigned tasks. To increase productive participation, time tracking or other employee monitoring software can be used.
- Tuckman’s stages of group development is a concise and elegant framework for team development and behavior. The model was developed by psychologist Bruce Tuckman in 1965.
- Tuckman’s stages of group development comprise five stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Each stage has associated feelings or behavioral patterns which primarily help the group move past challenges.
- Tuckman’s stages of group development suggest talent is only one part of an effective team. Some general tips for improving effectiveness include setting a clear purpose and ground rules, identifying facilitators, accepting conflict, and encouraging group participation.
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