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GuidesProduct developmentFour stages of group development: Forming, storming, norming, and performing

Four stages of group development: Forming, storming, norming, and performing

Last updated

20 December 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Mary Mikhail

It’s rare for a team to click instantly. Most need time to “gel” and function at their full potential. Team members go through a series of stages as they evolve from being unfamiliar with each other to becoming a fully functioning, cohesive unit. These stages are best described in Bruce Tuckman’s forming, storming, norming, and performing model.

Understanding these group development phases is crucial to helping your team become more effective faster.

This article deep dives into all four stages and explores what they entail. Read on to learn why this group dynamics concept is so popular and how each stage of group development manifests.

Why is Tuckman’s model useful?

Psychologist Bruce W. Tuckman came up with his famous group development model in the mid-1960s. He discussed his concepts of forming, storing, norming, and performing in a paper titled “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” Since then, the model has become a valuable framework for evaluating teams and has been adopted by organizations worldwide.

Individuals have their own unique behaviors and feelings, as does each team. The four stages act as the basis for team conversations when changes in team behavior start to get in the way of productivity. Understanding why things are happening in certain ways significantly aids self-evaluation.

The model’s true potential lies in observing where a team is in the developmental stage process and helping it reach a stage that aligns with collaborative work.

New teams form and go through changes in the real world every day. When this happens, they can enter a new developmental stage. For instance, a team that is harmoniously norming or performing may return to the storming stage when a new team member joins. It’s a project leader’s responsibility to anticipate such developments and help the team quickly get back to performing.

What happens during the phases of Tuckman’s group development model?

Below are the things that occur in different stages of Tuckman’s group development model.

Stage 1: Forming

This is the very first phase. It starts when a new team forms. It involves a period of orientation and getting acquainted with each other.

Prevalent behaviors during the forming stage

  • Politeness

  • Shying away from controversy

  • Hesitancy joining in

  • Self-orientation

  • Cliques

  • Members seeking approval and safety

  • Decision-making as members try to define tasks and processes

  • Irrelevant discussions

Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of group members

  • Anticipation, excitement, and optimism

  • Fear, suspicion, and anxiety

  • Apprehension and uncertainty

  • Questions on why they are there and what is expected of them

What the team needs during this phase

  • A clear team mission and vision

  • Precise tasks and objectives to focus on

  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities

  • A list of ground rules that help ensure effective team collaboration

  • An outline of expectations

  • Operational guidelines to streamline team processes

  • Efficient face-to-face meetings

  • Enhanced productivity in virtual meetings

  • Getting initial feedback from project managers

Leadership required

  • Offering clear guidance and organization for tasks

  • Giving team members time to get to know one another

  • Cultivating an optimistic team environment

  • Engaging actively with the team’s activities and progress

  • Recognizing when a designated leader is essential for decision-making

  • Ensuring clear and direct communication from the leader to team members

Stage 2: Storming

Storming is the most difficult of all phases. It’s full of uncertainty, and team members are often confused about what to do. People start to push out of the preset boundaries, and friction or conflicts could arise.

This is the stage where people’s preferred working methods and styles surface and clash. Structural, power, and leadership issues dominate this phase.

Prevalent behaviors during the storming stage

  • Disagreements and conflicts

  • Members vying for leadership roles, signaling a power dynamic shift

  • Variances in perspectives and personal styles

  • Uncertainty or confusion regarding individual roles within the team

  • The team begins the process of self-organization

  • Internal power struggles and clashes

  • Less inclination toward seeking consensus

  • Limited progress in achieving collective goals

  • Setting goals that are perceived as unrealistic

  • Concern over excessive work

Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of group members

  • A defensive nature

  • Confusion and a waning interest in team activities

  • Resistance, particularly when it comes to handling assigned tasks

  • Inconsistent attitudes toward the team

  • Doubting the wisdom of some team members and their decisions

  • Increased jealousy and tension

  • Uncertainty about freedom within the team and influence over other members

  • Openly voicing frustrations

What the team needs during this phase

  • Recognizing and understanding stylistic and personal differences among team members

  • Revisiting and redefining team roles and ground rules for cohesion

  • Ensuring clarity and understanding of the team’s overarching purpose

  • Developing both inter- and intra-personal relationships

  • Establishing a culture of constructive feedback, both given and received

  • Implementing effective conflict resolution strategies

  • Cultivating effective listening skills to enhance communication

  • Dealing with code of conduct violations

  • Being open to and incorporating feedback from the project lead for continuous improvement

Leadership required

  • Acknowledging conflicts openly and taking steps to address them promptly

  • Guidance on effective conflict resolution methods within the team

  • Encouraging conflicting team members to reach a consensus

  • Fostering a sense of accountability by ensuring team members take on their assigned responsibilities

  • Encouraging active team involvement and fostering the emergence of shared leadership

  • Recognizing and addressing challenges in the team’s decision-making processes

  • Providing consistent support and acknowledgment for team efforts

Stage 3: Norming

By this stage, the team has turned a corner. They have started buying into the process and can work together effectively. They have stronger trust in each other and can achieve better cohesion. They also start putting aside their differences and work together toward a common objective.

Prevalent behaviors during the norming stage

  • Agreeing on procedures and processes

  • Relating to each other comfortably

  • Improved focus and energy 

  • Shared problem-solving and balanced influence

  • Effective conflict-resolution

  • Attempting to make consensual decisions

  • Creating teamwork routines

  • Setting and achieving various milestones

Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of group members

  • A strong sense of belonging and unity

  • Elevated confidence

  • A newfound ability to express criticism constructively

  • Mutual acceptance and inclusion of all team members

  • A prevailing sense of trust

  • Confidence and assurance that everything is on track and will work out

  • A sense of freedom to express ideas and actively contribute to tasks

What the team needs during this phase

  • Establishing clarity and consensus in decision-making

  • Fostering a creative environment for innovative solutions

  • Encouraging collaboration to overcome challenges

  • Leveraging all available resources for efficiency

  • Taking collective responsibility for effective leadership

  • Using feedback and insights for continuous improvement

Leadership required

  • A collaborative leadership approach

  • Constructive feedback and consistent support from project leads

  • A leadership style that is adapted to allow for flexibility and creativity

  • Actively encouraging and facilitating interactions among team members

  • Ensuring every team member’s input is valued and considered

  • Making the collaborative process more transparent and understandable

  • Empowering team members to actively participate in decision-making

  • Prioritizing the cultivation and maintenance of solid team relationships

Stage 4: Performing

This is the best stage for any team to be in. By now, members have learned to put the group’s needs before their personal needs. Everyone focuses on shared goals and discovers ways to solve upcoming challenges.

While the team retains a fixed structure, members have complete interdependence and can adapt to meet each other’s needs.

Prevalent behaviors during the performing stage

  • Clear roles

  • A fully functional team

  • Interdependence within teams

  • Teams can organize themselves

  • Flexible members can work well individually, within subgroups, or as part of the wider team

  • Team members clearly understand their colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses

Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of group members

  • Commitment

  • Empathy

  • Understanding of collaborative work ethic

  • Strong bonds

  • General sense of satisfaction

  • Feeling excited and having fun during tasks

  • Plenty of creativity and personal development

  • Continual discovery of how to make the enthusiasm and momentum last longer

What the team needs during this phase

  • Continuous assurance from project leads that the team is moving in a collaborative direction

  • Enhanced flexibility within the team structure to adapt to changing needs

  • Implementation of assessments to gauge and enhance team knowledge

  • A constant flow of relevant information

  • A culture of constructive feedback (both giving and receiving)

  • Open dialogue and regular communication between team members and project leads

Leadership required

  • Shared leadership

  • Watching closely, inquiring about, and addressing the team’s needs

  • Collaborative efforts

  • Minimal direction from project leads

  • Support and positive reinforcement

  • Ensuring any new and essential information reaches the team on time

Stage 5: Adjourning

Most evolving teams naturally reach the adjourning stage. It wasn’t included in Tuckman’s original model but is now recognized as the fifth stage by most experts.

The adjourning stage occurs when the team finishes its project or an organization’s needs change. The group is disbanded, and the people are redeployed.

When a long-term project ends, some members may feel a little low as they now have to reestablish their work structure and move on. A ceremonial acknowledgment of the work and success of the team can help provide closure.

FAQs

What is the lifecycle of a team?

A team’s lifecycle consists of five stages:

  1. Forming

  2. Storming

  3. Norming

  4. Performing

  5. Adjourning

What is Tuckman’s Ladder?

Tuckman’s Ladder refers to Bruce Tuckman’s model of group development, which includes the forming, storming, norming, and performing stages.

What is an example of a storming stage action?

During the storming stage, a team might experience conflicts over leadership roles or different approaches to work.

What is an example of norming?

In the norming stage, team members may exhibit a strong sense of belonging, mutual acceptance, and a general atmosphere of trust.

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