One of the most enduring and influential models of the group developmental process is from psychologist Bruce W. Tuckman (1965). While there have been various adaptations and enhancements of this basic four-stage model, 70 years later Tuckman’s model is still considered a useful framework for understanding team behaviours. Tuckman saw passing through each stage as being necessary for a team to be able to skillfully tackle challenges and attain high performance. In simplest terms, Tuckman’s original stages of group development are:
Forming: the team becomes oriented as goals and expectations are clarified by the team lead;
Storming: issues of conflict and power surface between members;
Norming: conflicts are effectively managed and new ground rules are established by team members;
Performing: with supportive structures in place, the team settles into working effectively together.
Basically, as relationships between team members deepen, the team develops in their ability to resolve issues, and leadership naturally shifts to a more collaborative or shared approach. Each stage has characteristic behaviors which makes this a useful tool to understand where your team is at, why, and how to move beyond.
Our newest peer learning guide Nurturing a Team to High Performance, written by Professor Emeritus Marilyn Laiken, focuses on the question “How does one manage a self-managed team?” and elaborates the role of the team lead within Tuckman’s 4-stage model.
When needed, the team lead must provide timely facilitation and interventions that ultimately promote greater independence of the team from the team lead and greater interdependence between team members.
Especially challenging is the successful navigation of the storming phase:
“If a designated leader fears losing control or becomes panicked by a conflictual atmosphere as the team moves towards independence,
the team will likely regress to and remain at a dependent stage.”
Marilyn Laiken, CoachingOurselves peer group learning guide Nurturing a Team to High Performance
High-performing, self-led teams rarely arrive there on their own. They will need the timely interventions of a team lead who is aware of where the team is in their developmental process. This topic will help leaders understand when to step up and when to step back for just the right amount of leadership at the right time.