Form, Storm, Norm, Perform and Adjourn.
So, most of us are familiar with Dr. Bruce Tuckman’s model with the stages a team goes through to get high performance. His work was based on reviewing over works on team theory and categorised them in stages.
So the stages a team goes through – forming, storming, norming, and performing is a team’s pathway to high performance. Which is generally not a straight forward process. The stages will take shape when the team changes in dynamics with team members coming and going.
Stage 1: Forming
A team kicks off and everyone is on their best behavior. People rally together for a common cause aligned to a mission and purpose. Or maybe just doing a job.
The team is now just getting comfortable and making connections bringing their skills to the table to help the mission succeed.
Stage 2: Storming
Okay, its a few weeks in now. The niceties start to wear off a bit and the honeymoon period is over. Differences in opinions, interpersonal issues arise, personality clashes, and work styles start to come out from different team members.
Teams need to work their way out of this to or they will get stuck at this stage. Agile coaches and Scrum Master facilitate and help the team through this. Consider getting them aligned to the ‘Social contract’ or ‘Team rules’ or even the general code of conduct (HR policy – if it gets to that).
Constructive and respectful differences of opinions are needed to point out weak spots in the team.
Stage 3: Norming
Teams who can move to this stage is on a smooth road of working with each other, there are a common understanding and acceptance of the team dynamic.
Stage 4: Perform
Well done, if you are at this stage. So, the team dynamics are good norms have been accepted. We’re like a well-oiled machine the team can respectfully challenge each other to grow, needs are being met and there focused on the same goal.
Stage 5: Adjourn
Adjourning when a team is dismantled after they finish their work or product delivery. I have seen good ‘Agile’ team member join other teams to help build up other teams. This was part was added a decade later to the model by Tuckman.
Tom Edison, wrote an article ‘The Team development Life Cycle: A New Look’ argued the need to look beyond the performing stage of the Tuckman model and how might we keep the team at high-performing levels.
Edison’s thesis mentions teams may not always follow the four stages of growth and teams may not adjourn. Edison labels Tuckman’s four-stages as the functional side of the coin, and develops his insights by bringing in the informing, conforming and deforming stages.
Stage 5: Inform
So, this the midpoint of the journey when the team is in high performance. The team is being praised, recognised through the organisation and management is capturing the processes and lessons learned to replicate the success of this team.
This is the tipping point before the team begins its decline so we need to avoid the team going into complacency, Remember Agile is a journey, not the end state. We need to continuously improve.
Stage 6: Conforming
This is where it begins. The team gets lazy, complacency starts to creep in and groupthink. These are signs to look out for that the team might be on the slippery slope down. Innovation and creativity will also take a hit because they all start to think alike.
Stage 7: Deforming
So if you are here basically the team is f&*ked. It is rotting and decaying. According to Edison the team members gradually lose the sense of gratification and motivation from the other half of the Tuckman model. Sign of this is just not turning up to team meetings or even pull out altogether.
The team in the deforming stage according to Edison says that any effort by this stage could be futile as the team may well be past the point of no recovery. So, catch this early – don’t let it get here!