Stages of Group Dynamics

Bruce Tuckman’s model of team development is based on the work of Kurt Lewin. It outlines the dynamic phases a team goes through in any team or work process. These phases can vary in speed and intensity, sometimes moving quickly and intensively, other times more slowly and harmoniously.

The model is suitable for meetings, workshops, team development, and any situation where people need to work together. It provides an overview, explanations, and approaches to resolving blockages and conflicts.

Team Dynamics Simplified

In its basic form, the model describes four phases: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. The fifth phase, Adjourning, was added later in the model’s development. These five phases describe the group dynamic process from the individual (I) to partnership (You), and finally to the team (We), drawing from Ruth Cohn’s Theme-Centered Interaction model.

The duration and intensity of these phases vary depending on the relationships among team members and their previous work experiences together.

The 5 Phases of Team Development

As a facilitator or trainer, and especially as a leader supporting a team’s dynamic development, it is essential to understand these phases, recognize them in the process, and derive your own tasks and roles. This helps guide your team securely into the Performing phase.

1. Phase: Forming

A team newly assembled for a shared work process is in the Forming phase. At this stage, the team is only partially able to work effectively together. Key orientation points, such as information about the topic, goals, and mutual benefits, are missing. Focusing on organizing the work process and individual steps helps participants orient themselves.

Orientation – the goal of the first phase in the team process.

Orientation also means understanding who belongs to the team and where each person fits. A shared identity begins to form in the Forming phase.

Signs your team is stuck in Forming:

  • It is unclear who is part of the team.
  • Team identification is lacking.
  • Attention and loyalty are elsewhere.

2. Phase: Storming

The Forming phase transitions smoothly into the Storming phase. Here, participants express their views on the goals and structure of the work steps. Each participant has their own ideas and frameworks for how they want to work and take responsibility. Expressing these ideas is the focus of the Storming phase. At this stage, the team works more on team-related issues rather than the task itself, revealing different perspectives. The Storming phase can be intense but doesn’t necessarily mean conflict; it’s about constructive exchange of opinions and ideas towards the common goal.

Highlighting perspectives – the goal of the second phase in the team process.

Signs your team is stuck in Storming:

  • Discussions occur without resolution.
  • Topics go in circles.
  • Frustration, aggression, and/or resignation are evident.

3. Phase: Norming

The Norming phase involves negotiating diversity to find common ground for the work period. The team develops rules, makes decisions, and finds compromises for their work. While previous phases focused on the individual, this phase fosters the „we“ mentality. Key questions might include: „How do we achieve our goal together?“ or „What do we need for good collaboration?“

Clarifying work, responsibilities, and next steps – the goal of the third phase in the team process.

Signs your team is stuck in Norming:

  • Agreements are made and finalized.
  • The team develops detailed rules for various scenarios.
  • A handbook is written, but actual work has yet to begin.

4. Phase: Performing

After completing the Norming phase, the team enters the Performing phase, fully dedicating themselves to the work process and specific tasks. The Storming and Norming phases may reoccur as the team faces new challenges and situations that need collective agreement and regulation.

Focusing on the common goal – the goal of the fourth phase in the team process.

Signs your team is in the Performing phase:

  • Work results are being delivered.
  • Agreements are working.
  • The team has a stable workflow.

5. Phase Adjourning

Many teams disband after a successful Performing phase. The Adjourning phase involves documenting key insights and results, concluding the work. This phase describes the transition from „we“ back to „you“ and „I.“ According to this model, every group process ends with Adjourning once the common goal is achieved. Even if the team continues working together on a new topic, it starts again with the Forming phase. Thus, Tuckman’s model can also be seen as circular.

Lessons learned and looking ahead – the goal of the fifth phase in the team process.

Quellen

American psychologist Bruce Tuckman developed the team development model in 1965. Initially, it included only the first four phases, with the fifth phase, Adjourning, added in 1977.

Bruce W. Tuckman: Developmental sequence in small groups. In: Psychological Bulletin. 63, 1965

Bruce W. Tuckman, Mary Ann Jensen: Stages of small-group development revisited. In: Group and Organization Studies. 2, 4, Dez 1977

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