In 1965, Bruce Tuckerman postulated the 4 stages of group development when building a team. It’s important to understand these stages as a team developer. Each one consists of different behaviors which are driven by the team members’ needs. Understanding these needs and behaviors are essential in guiding the team to success.
These development stages show up repeatedly on an SAP project, not only when it starts but throughout as phases, deliverables and personnel change.
Stage 1: Forming (Getting to Know Each Other)
This is the first stage of forming a team. This is when the team first meets each other and is on their best behavior. As part of a new group, individuals seek acceptance from their new teammates and try to develop bonds through common interests. They are also looking for an individual to take the lead.
During this stage, it is important for leadership to define objectives, roles, and tasks so that members feel their contributions are significant. That way, team members will begin to establish a sense of purpose and commitment to the team. In addition to the onboarding process, team building activities need to be incorporated to help team members form bonds required for team efficiency.
As with all the stages it is important to recognize that forming occurs whenever a new team is created. In a typical NSPRO engagement teams are formed and dissolved throughout the project lifecycle hence the ongoing need to provide leadership and guidance.
Stage 2: Storming (People Start Butting Heads)
Now that the team is past the introductory stage, personalities can start to conflict due to differing opinions and approaches. Team members will begin to question things such as responsibilities, rules, and criteria for success. This can make team members uncomfortable to a point where isolation can occur and the team can fall apart.
Leaders need to be prepared to effectively coach team members by validating their concerns and providing tangible resolutions. They need to setup an effective process to resolve conflicts that will arise during this stage. If team members exercise understanding, tolerance, and patience, they have a great chance of making it through the most difficult stage.
A key leadership skill is knowing how much conflict to allow, because it can be healthy and ultimately constructive, or when to step in and manage the situation. From an NSPRO perspective maintaining focus on the client’s objectives is paramount: the needs of the project supersede those of the team or the individual and finding ways to collaborate is crucial. In this regard common goals and a methodology provide a framework for getting things done.
Stage 3: Norming (Comradery Begins)
After the internal conflicts have been resolved, the team members begin to exhibit a sense of cohesion and are more comfortable with one another. They begin sharing their ideas and giving feedback to one another, increasing the group’s overall creativity.
At this point, the team should be self-sufficient. There is little intervention needed from leadership at this stage, but it is important to continue providing support where needed to prevent the team from lapsing back into the storming stage.
By now hands on leadership should be light and primarily limited to: reiterations of goals, objectives and timelines; checking expected progress against actual progress and helping to resolve issues.
Stage 4: Performing (The Team Gets Stuff Done)
After the team members have moved past the forming, storming, and norming stages of group development, they can finally produce work and rely on team members for support. Teams are fully functioning at this point. Their working styles and skills complement one another, and they rely on the each other to perform tasks more efficiently.
At this stage, team leaders can begin delegating tasks easily and seeing growth within their teams. Team leaders need to ensure they address any major changes to reduce the possibility of digressing to earlier stages. Anticipating team efficiency can be tough, but understanding the needs of the individuals that comprise the teams allow leaders to keep their team at peak performance.
Team Development Never Stops
As a project progresses through different phases some team members will leave the project, others will join and some will move into new positions within the project. This means the stages described above are always happening.
As a new project phase starts new teams are formed and the members will go through the stages. New team members joining established teams will go through a very personal version of the stages as they settle in.
As a result, NSPRO has found leadership needs to build time into the schedule to describe what teams will experience, provide tools and role descriptions, manage their expectations and get them to stage 4 as quickly as possible.