How Teams Work

This workshop explored the classic stages of team development, identified by sociologist Bruce Tuckman: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning. We discussed each stage, illustrated with a few example exercises, and investigated how this knowledge could be used to help us work better with others.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Henry Ford

  1. 1. Forming

‘Forming’ is the initial stage of creating a team. This step helps to bring the group together by finding out about one another and breaking the ice. It’s such a crucial part as it begins to allow the team to see how each individual will progress and what strengths each person has.

To demonstrate this, we were asked to stand in a circle, and when the rope was passed to us, we had to say something about ourselves while the rest of the group guessed whether this was true or false. The idea of this was to encourage openness and honestly, and allow team members to feel more comfortable sharing information about themselves.

2. Storming

This step is where teams will have to learn how to handle working together in different situations. Stress and conflict can arise at any time, and a team must be able to work together to over come obstacles, or they’ll get stuck in this step and not be able to progress. It’s said that conflict can be a positive thing for a team, and can help everyone grow both individually and as a group.

For this, we were asked to walk across the room, with the goal of all stepping over the finish line at the exact same time. At first, we thought this was easy, but after a few attempts found it was a bit more complicated. It allowed us to define a leader for the task so we knew who was to be followed and were able to complete the task successfully.

3. Norming

‘Norming’ occurs when the individuals start to find their place in the group. The group is ‘normalised’ and everyone knows one another’s strengths and weaknesses, and can easily delegate individuals to certain tasks, so they can be carried out in the best way possible.

For this challenge, we were all asked to stand inside a rope circle. We then had to get out of the circle by going underneath, but were not allowed to use our hands or arms in the process. We tried a few different methods, but after working together on the previous tasks, we were able to quickly devise a plan that worked.

4. Performing

This is when a team is fully functional, can self organise and operate effectively. High performing teams can do great things; they can complete tasks to the highest standard with ease, and are able to quickly resolve any issues that may arise.

To demonstrate this, we were asked to rotate the rope circle as many times as possible in one minute. On the first attempt, we managed 12 spins. We then were asked to assess, come up with new ideas of how we could improve, then have another go. This time we scored 18. This task was really effective as it showed how just by getting different input from different team members, you can reach a greater outcome.

5. Adjourning

Originally, Tuckman created the first four stages, however this was later revised and a fifth step was added. ‘Adjourning’ happens when the team changes, for example a member leaving or a new member being brought in. This then isn’t the same team that’s changed, but instead is a new team, so often needs to go back to the beginning so any new members can have a fair chance to work through the stages of development. It’s important to accept these changes, and understand that going back to step one isn’t a bad thing, but instead will make the team even stronger.

Tuckman’s stages of development was not meant to be followed in a specific order, but instead teams are encouraged to move forwards and backwards and revisit steps to continuously improve their team dynamic as different situations occur. It’s all about finding what suits each person and helps each person to be happy in what they’re doing and be able to put their all into their work.