One influential theory, developed by Tuckman, focuses on team functioning. It proposes that when a group of people come together to achieve an objective, they go through a series of stages, leading to a final mature stage that equates to an effective high performance.
The main stages are:
Forming – new or undeveloped, when people are working as individuals rather than a team. Participants conform, keeping feelings and anxieties hidden. There may well be assumptions, misinterpretation and misunderstandings.
Storming – teams need to pass through a stage of conflict, jostling for position, understanding each others’ strengths and contributions. It is at this stage that tensions are usually at their height and the climate, for both relationships and the project, can become volatile.
Norming – or consolidating, in which the team is beginning to achieve its potential, effectively applying the resource it has to tasks it has, using a process it has developed itself. By now the team iwll be listening better, reviewing, questioning and settling into recognised roles.
Performing – when the team is characterised by openness and flexibility. It challenges itself constantly, but without emotionally charged conflict, and places a high priority on the development of other team members. It is at this stage that the team feels suffidiently confident to take risks, be creative, and trust and learn from each other.
Disbanding – when the team disbands there can be a sense of regret, but also a time to recognise lessons learnt and achievements and celebrate their time together.
However, this model is as fluid as the Change Curve. For example, if a member of the team is change, a high performing team may revert to an earlier stage.
So, what is the point of knowing this? Well, I have two teenagers. Both of them are experiencing the heightened, sometimes intense, emotions presented at that stage of life. To mitigate that eventuality, at a very early age, I gave them a copy of The Human Body by Sir Robert Winston, in which he explains prescisely what they will encounter and why. Although this knowledge doesn’t make their circumstances easier, it does at least enable them to understand that it is supposed to happen, that it is normal and that it will come to an end.
If you can share with a new project team Tuckman’s theory, it will help them to manage stress levels, manage expectations and take one step at a time.