What Are the Stages of Team Development?

Why Might Your Organization Form Teams?

Smiling business people discussing progress at their team meeting. The group is in the performing stage of team development.
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Traditionally, a team goes through five stages of development. Each stage of team development presents its own special challenges to a group of people striving to work together successfully by forming a cohesive team.

The team and the organization can take specific actions at each stage of team development to support the team’s success in accomplishing the team mission. Only by supporting your teams through each stage of their development will you accomplish the purpose for which you formed the team.

At each stage, the behavior of the leader must adapt to the changing and developing needs of the group. An effective leader who other members of the team want to follow is indispensable when the group is trying to progress through the stages that are common to most teams.

Stages of Team Development Model

The model used was first developed by Dr. Bruce Tuckman who published his four stages of team development: the Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model, in 1965. Dr. Tuckman seems to have added a fifth stage, Adjourning, during the 1970s.

Interestingly, in  my own work with teams, I had arrived at the conclusion that a fifth stage of team development was either Transforming or Ending. So, I have trained clients on the fifth stage forever. This was prior to my finding that Dr. Tuckman had also later added the stage that he called Adjourning.

Stages of Team Development

  • Forming: a group of people come together to accomplish a shared purpose. Their initial success will depend on their familiarity with each other's work style, their experience on prior teams, and the clarity of their assigned mission.
  • Storming: Disagreement about mission, vision, and ways to approach the problem or assignment are constant at this stage of development. This struggle is combined with the fact that team members are getting to know each other, learning to work with each other, and growing familiar with the interaction and communication of the group members. Both of these can cause strained relationships and conflict. Estimates I have seen place 20% of the conflict over the team's task and 80% over the new relationships.
  • Norming: The team has consciously or unconsciously formed working relationships that are enabling progress on the team’s objectives. The members have consciously or unconsciously agreed to abide by certain group norms and they are becoming functional at working together.
  • Performing: Relationships, team processes, and the team’s effectiveness in working on its objectives are synching to bring about a successfully functioning team. This is the stage at which the real work of the team is progressing.
  • Transforming: The team is performing so well that members believe it is the most successful team they have experienced; or

    Ending: The team has completed its mission or purpose and it is time for team members to pursue other goals or projects. (Adjourning)

Not every team moves through these stages in order and various activities such as adding a new team member can send the team back to an earlier stage while the member is incorporated.

The length of time necessary for progressing through these stages depends on the experience of the members, the support the team receives and the knowledge and skill of the team members.

These are the twelve specific factors that must be present for a team to succeed.

Purpose for Forming Teams

The purpose for creating teams is to provide a framework that will increase the ability of employees to participate in planning, problem solving and decision making to better serve customers. Increased participation promotes:

  • better understanding of decisions,
  • more support for and participation in implementation plans,
  • increased contribution to problem solving and decision making, and
  • more ownership of decisions, processes, and changes.

In order for teams to fulfill their intended role of improving organizational effectiveness, it is critical that teams develop into working units that are focused on their goal, mission, or reason for existing. They do this by effectively progressing through the stages of team development outlined here.

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