The 5 Stages of Team Development

Productive teamwork can’t just be magically turned on when it’s needed. It requires the team to develop as a whole unit. Team development is a rapport-building exercise for a new team to bond, understand each other’s social and working styles and work to its full potential. When your team is full of high performers and go-getters, accomplishing goals becomes a much easier and smoother process.

However, working on a team with all its unique parts can sometimes be a struggle. There is always a diverse range of personalities, work preferences, senses of humour, and work preferences to consider.

With all this said, the question arises: How do we ensure team development while taking into account the diversities present within the team?

This is where the 5 Stages of development by Bruce Tuckman come in. Tuckman, an educational psychologist, published his paper titled Developmental Sequence in Small Groups in 1965. In this paper, he described the 5 stages of team development as Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. 

His theory, which is also referred to as Tuckman’s Stages, revolves around his research on the dynamics of teams and team building. His common belief of team development is that a team has to necessarily navigate through all the five stages for it to work together as a coherent unit and reach the desired end goal. 

Forming stage

The forming stage involves a period of orientation, where the team members get acquainted with each other. Uncertainty is high during this stage, and people are looking for someone who can lead. A member who asserts authority or is knowledgeable may be looked to take control. 

Team members are asking such questions as “What does the team offer me?” “What is expected of me?” “Will I fit in?” Most interactions are social as members get to know each other. 

The forming stage is also where team members discuss things like: Team goals, individual roles, strategy, ground rules.

Storming stage

The storming stage is the most difficult and critical stage to navigate smoothly through. It is a period marked by conflict and competition as all the diverse and individual personalities emerge. Team performance tends to decrease in this stage because focus often shifts to unproductive activities. Members may disagree on team goals, and subgroups and cliques may form around strong personalities or areas of agreement. 

To get through this stage, team members must work to overcome obstacles, accept individual differences, and work through conflicting ideas on team tasks and goals. Failure to address conflicts and differences is likely to result in long-term problems.

Norming stage

If a team can manoeuvre through the storming stage, conflict is resolved and some degree of unity and stability is achieved. In the norming stage, a consensus develops around who the leader or leaders are, and the individual roles of the team members are established. Interpersonal differences begin to be resolved, and a sense of cohesion and unity emerges. 

Team performance increases during this stage as members learn to cooperate and begin to focus on team goals. 

Performing stage

In the performing stage, consensus and cooperation have been well-established and the team is mature, organised, and well-functioning. There is a clear and stable structure, and members are committed to the team’s mission. Problems and conflicts still emerge, but they are dealt with constructively.

Adjourning stage

In the adjourning stage, most of the team’s goals have been accomplished. The emphasis is on wrapping up final tasks and documenting the effort and results. As the workload is diminished, individual members may be reassigned to other teams, and the team disbands. 

For a team to be as successful and unlock its true potential, all five stages must be utilised to their fullest. It is important to note that each stage has a purpose, and thus shouldn’t be overlooked.

When each of the five stages is carried through, a team will feel more in sync and will be able to work as a unit.