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The 5 Tuckman's Stages of Team Development

Humans are social animals and most of us thrive in social groups. While working in solitude can lead to good results, working in teams and striving together is more effective. That said, it is not very easy to work in a group. Keeping this in mind, the great psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with a model of group development that shows how the groups are formed, how they progress, and how they perform.

This model is called the 'Tuckman's stages of team development' and was introduced in 1965. The Educational Psychologist first introduced his concepts in a paper 'Developmental Sequence in Small Groups'. However, Tuckman was only able to include four stages, as the fifth one was introduced by Mary Ann Jensen who was his doctoral student. It basically outlines the five important stages of team development and how a group goes through all these stages to become a single unit. This single unit is then capable of performing effectively towards a singular goal.

team development stages

Tuckman's stages of team development. Image by DovileMi.

Let's take a deeper look at the five stages of team development and learn what Tuckman wanted to convey:

First Stage - Forming

This is the very first stage of group development. This is where all the members of the group come together to form a team. It does not matter if the members know each other or are strangers, this stage helps them connect with each other. The forming stage is when the group 'forms'. Good examples of the interaction can be a student's first day of school where they meets peers and gets to know the basic details of their lives. The first stage is full of excitement as the feeling of knowing each other is new. Each group member is coming across new information and they are excited to see what will come next. At the moment, there is no division of work. The roles within the group are not decided and the interaction between the members leads to the decisions of individual roles.

In this stage, the group members collectively decide what goals they are looking to achieve. It is not really a group until and unless all group members have a consensus on the goal. Once the goal is established, the members then move on to selecting the roles. Each group has members of different abilities. These abilities help them decide what kind of roles they should opt for.

The group then agrees on the unsaid rules they must adhere to if they want to continue working in peace towards a common goal. 

Second Stage - Storming

The second stage is called storming, much like an actual storm. According to Tuckman, this stage is the most important stage out of the five as there can be several factors hindering the development of the team. This is where most conflicts happen. When people of different personalities and preferences have to work together, conflict is inevitable. The team performance is usually compromised at this stage as the members start to socialize more and disagree on different things.  

They might not agree with one another on the strategy they need to pursue. This can cause several clashes between the members of the group. Furthermore, the group now has to define roles and it can be difficult for some people to agree on roles they don't want. Since this is a very vulnerable stage, it is possible for subgroups to form within the group. The only way groups can survive this stage is by working hard together. They need to put their differences aside and play to their strengths to come up with solutions.

It is best to solve problems rather than push them aside. If you avoid problems at this stage, they might grow into bigger issues and affect the productivity of the group. Many people believe that it is better to skip this stage altogether but this stage helps keep strengthen the relationship between different group members. Groups should go into the development with the idea that such a stage will come and that they should be prepared for it.

Third Stage - Norming

The calm after the storm is called norming. This stage is when the group members have had all their conflicts and are ready to move forward. The team now understands each other and knows how to work together without getting stuck in more conflicts. This stage basically focuses on the normal patterns of working. It can be the stage where team building is in full swing.

Group members are well aware of their roles and work within their domains to further the performance of the group. This leads to a strong bond between the group which leads to strong attachments and better output. The team is now more comfortable with each other because no conflicts arise when they are more accepting of each other and know how to deal with various issues.  

Fourth Stage - Performing

The performing stage is the crux of complete development. At this stage, the work is in full swing. The team performs its best to make sure that they come up with better results. All members of the group at this stage, work hard and move towards achieving their goals.

The cohesive alignment of the group allows it to finally put its strengths together to improve the outcomes of its labor. However, differences of opinion or conflicts are not out of the picture yet. A team might still entangle themselves in a conflict but by now the bond between the team members is stronger than the conflict. They can now solve disputes much easily.

Fifth Stage - Adjourning

The fifth and last stage of team development is adjourning. This stage is the end of a beautiful journey. It is also commonly known as the termination of the group. The group was put together to achieve goals with the combined efforts of team members. When the goal is achieved, there is no purpose left for the group to serve which means the end for the group. The project is now over which means that newer projects will come up and newer groups will be formed. This can be sad for many group members who enjoyed working with each other.

The end of the group might be marked with a ceremony or a discussion on all the events that transpired.

How Important Are Tuckman's stages of team development?

If you want a group to work well and achieve whatever they aim to, then it is important for it to pass through every stage introduced by Tuckman. A group that does not perform well sets itself up for failure by not adhering to the stages or skipping one or two of them.

If a group goes through each and every stage, it will most likely experience success and high levels of productivity. The stages allow groups to achieve their goals within the timeline they want.

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