Team Leadership Toolkit

Team Development

How Teams Develop

The researchers were studying groups and in particular how groups developed.

They identified that most groups have a fairly clearly defined growth cycle. The groups develop and mature, and to do so they progress to maturity through four stages: Form, Storm, Norm, and Perform.

Stage 1.     Forming.

The group is not yet a group but a set of individuals. This stage is characterised by talk about the purpose of the group, the definition and the title of the group, its composition, leadership, pattern, and life-span. At this stage, too, each individual tends to want to establish their personal identity within the group, make some individual impression.

Stage 2.     Storming.

Most groups go through a conflict stage when the initial consensus (often false) on purposes, on leadership and other roles, on norms of work and behaviour, is challenged and re-established. At this stage a lot of personal agendas are revealed and a certain amount of inter-personal hostility is generated. If successfully handled, this period of storming leads to a new and more realistic setting of objectives, procedures and norms. This stage is particularly important for testing the norms of trust in the group.

Stage 3.     Norming.

The group needs to establish norms and practices. When and how it should work, how it should take decisions. what type of behaviour, what level of work, what degree of openness, trust and confidence is appropriate. At this stage there will be a lot of tentative experimentation by individuals to test the temperature of the group and to measure the appropriate level of commitment.

Stage 4.     Performing.

Only when the three previous stages have been successfully completed will the group be at full maturity and be able to be fully and sensibly productive. Some kind of performance will be achieved at all stages of development but it is likely to be impeded by the other processes of growth and by individual agendas. In many committees the leadership issue, or the objective and purpose of the group, are recurring topics that crop up in every meeting in some form or other, seriously hindering the true work of the group.

Commentary

  1. Teams always go through the stages although some develop very rapidly, some slowly. Some teams stick in any of the early phases, and in fact never reach their maturity and their performing stage.
     
  2. The team must pass through the stages, but they are able to influence and manage their progress so they pass through the stages quicker so that they become mature and effective more quickly. This is essentially what teambuilding does.
     
  3. This model also links with the Adair model. The group will ‘grow up’, will mature very rapidly when:
    • the task is very important,
    • the individuals are highly committed to the group,
    • individual and group objectives are identical.
       
  4. The different stages need to be managed differently. What is appropriate in a performing stage is not appropriate in the forming stage and vice-versa.
     
  5. Some of the disruptive behaviour seen in groups (bickering etc.) is not so much "bad behaviour" as the natural development of the group, the working-through of the team issues.
    Experienced leaders recognise it as that and resist the temptation to "stamp down" on it, knowing that it will pass of its own accord.