Today I want to start looking at teamwork. Our personal productivity is greatly enhanced when we are part of an effective team. When things are going well a team’s results are greater than the sum of the individual contributors. Unfortunately all to often teams are anything but effective. Why is that so true?
In 1965 Bruce Tuckman first used the phrase, “forming, storming, norming and performing” to describe the natural evolution of a team. These phases are still true today and ignoring them can side track any progress the team is making. Teams that are producing phenomenal results have reached the performing stage in their development.
What are these stages?
- Forming – this is the initial stage of the team and is where everybody is getting to know each other and what is expected of them as a team. It can be very uncomfortable for everyone. Typically the team is not operating well yet.
- Storming – this stage is where everyone is getting into their roles and hashing out responsibilities and expectations. It is often a short phase, however it is very difficult for everyone and is rife with conflict. Good team leaders will recognize this and work to get the team into the next stage quickly. Keep in mind some dissention is good, this way the team does not get into a “group think” mentality which kills innovation.
- Norming – this stage represents the period where everyone’s roles are understood as is what is expected of each person and the team as a whole. During this phase the team is picking up speed and is producing results. It is easy to think this is the ultimate stage and everything is as good as it gets.
- Performing – this is the final stage of highly effective teams. Once they get here things are clicking and more is being accomplished than was originally expected.
What goes wrong?
- Not understanding the stage the team is in. If the team is in the storming phase it has to be recognized and managed. You will not get top results at this phase, time and mentoring is needed to get them past it.
- Expecting one-way progression only. Sometimes a team is in the performing stage and someone gets promoted off to a new job. Their replacement joins the team and things aren’t as good. Is that the new guy’s fault? NO! The team has to go back and go through forming, storming and norming again as everyone adjusts to the new person’s skills and abilities.
- Rushing the stages. If a team has just been formed it’s easy to expect them to get to norming almost immediately. They need to figure out who is doing what and how it’s all going to work, right? True but the team needs to hash these things out and argue about the details which is storming. It cannot be skipped or you will not get optimal results.
- Not celebrating success. When a project teams reaches it’s natural conclusion it is easy to say “Job well done. Goodbye.” If the successes aren’t recognized the team members may feel like their hard work really wasn’t acknowledged. This can lead to reluctance to give their all on future team. There is a “mourning” period as a great team comes to a close. Recognize that to set the stage for future successful teams.
Paying attention to the life cycle of the teams in your organization and addressing the needs of the stage they are in will help lead to highly effective teams. This leads to increased organizational performance and personal satisfaction.