Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Understanding the Stages of Team Formation

Of-late teams are my favorite subject of study and understanding different stages of team formation was very helpful to me as an agile coach. It helped me in understanding my team and I was being able to help my team become more effective more quickly. 

Lets discuss what are stages of team formation. As per psychologist Bruce Tuckman, every teams has following stages: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.  He published his article in 1965 about development sequence of small team. He used it to describe the path that most teams follow on their way to high performance. Later, he added a fifth stage, "adjourning". 

Lets see how we can use this model to build a highly effective team: 

In this stage, most team members are positive and polite. Some are anxious, as they haven't fully understood what work the team will do. Others are simply excited about the task ahead.
As leader, you play a dominant role at this stage, because team members' roles and responsibilities aren't clear.
This stage can last for some time, as people start to work together, and as they make an effort to get to know their new colleagues.

Next, the team moves into the storming phase, where people start to push against the boundaries established in the forming stage. This is the stage where many teams fail.
Storming often starts where there is a conflict between team members' natural working styles. People may work in different ways for all sorts of reasons but, if differing working styles cause unforeseen problems, they may become frustrated.
Storming can also happen in other situations. For example, team members may challenge your authority, or jockey for position as their roles are clarified. Or, if you haven't defined clearly how the team will work, people may feel overwhelmed by their workload, or they could be uncomfortable with the approach you're using.
Some may question the worth of the team's goal, and they may resist taking on tasks.
Team members who stick with the task at hand may experience stress, particularly as they don't have the support of established processes, or strong relationships with their colleagues.

Gradually, the team moves into the norming stage. This is when people start to resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues' strengths, and respect your authority as a leader.
Now that your team members know one another better, they may socialize together, and they are able to ask one another for help and provide constructive feedback. People develop a stronger commitment to the team goal, and you start to see good progress towards it.
There is often a prolonged overlap between storming and norming, because, as new tasks come up, the team may lapse back into behavior from the storming stage.

The team reaches the performing stage, when hard work leads, without friction, to the achievement of the team's goal. The structures and processes that you have set up support this well.
As leader, you can delegate much of your work, and you can concentrate on developing team members.
It feels easy to be part of the team at this stage, and people who join or leave won't disrupt performance.

Many teams will reach this stage eventually. For example, project teams exist for only a fixed period, and even permanent teams may be disbanded through organizational restructuring.
Team members who like routine, or who have developed close working relationships with colleagues, may find this stage difficult, particularly if their future now looks uncertain.

As a leader our goal is always to help teams reach Performing stage as quickly as possible. Identify the stage your team is in and then slowly move forward towards Performing stage. Based on team's stage adjust your approach and behavior towards your team. Provide enough help during Forming stage, would be my suggestion. During Storming give them structure and try identify their strengths and weaknesses. This stages is usually the hardest. Give them context and autonomy to resolve things on their own but do help if need arise. Once you are over this stage, you should simple step back and your team should take over the responsibility of moving forward. Once Norming stage is over, you should pat your back and go for vacation since your job is mostly done. Last stage happens a lot in all organization, so celebrate before leaving each other and remember. 

"The world is round and the place which may seem like the END may also be the beginning" -Ivy Baker Priest


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