Forming is the first stage in team development, when the group first gathers. In forming, members are concerned with questions like “Who’s here? What do I imagine is expected of me? How do I fit in? What are we supposed to do? How will we do things around here (culture)? How (much) do I want to participate?” There’s often a good deal of initial excitement and enthusiasm, as well as concern and anxiety. Everyone appears to be getting along, yet it’s really on a surface level. For the most part, people are on their best behavior; no one feels secure enough yet to be “real”.
Storming begins once people feel comfortable enough to get “real”. Initial enthusiasm often gives way to confusion, frustration and anger. Conflict erupts as team members struggle to find ways to work together, and things may likely seem awkward and difficult. Styles, personalities and group dynamics begin to surface, creating tension and fragmenting the group. Resistance, arguing, triangulation, judgment, confusion and disillusionment are typical symptoms of storming. Questions arise in team members, like “Who’s in charge? What happens when people don’t comply? How do we make decisions? Who gets to decide? Where is the power and how is it used? Whose side am I on?”. Team members must be willing to hang in during this stage, without giving up or checking out.
In the norming stage, clarifying mission, core values, roles, rules, expectations, rewards and consequences begins to happen. Members talk more openly about needs, and the group begins to pull together to decide how they’re met. The team members make clearer distinctions about each member’s scope of authority (power), and where each has input vs. decision making capabilities. Communication needs, methods and guidelines are established. Members feel relieved as things become more clearly defined, and enthusiasm is likely to return.
In the final stage of team development, getting the job done is the most vital priority of the team. Team members exhibit high levels of consciousness, emotional intelligence, risk taking, and innovation, and know how to balance “task” (what’s being done), with “process” (how it’s being done). People feel valued, seen and heard. All roles and scopes of authority are clear. Team members understand their differences, and know how to maximize and skillfully navigate them, through constructive conflict resolution. Team members understand everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, step up when their strengths are called for, and step back when getting into their areas of weakness. All team members are skilled in giving and receiving useful feedback, and also exhibit high levels of personal accountability.
Note: Any change in the make up of the team will result in the team returning to the forming stage. Also, progress through the stages is neither linear nor inevitable. Additionally, all teams experience set backs and regression from time to time, and periodic revisiting of team norms is recommended to promote the team’s ability to return to, or stay in, the performing stage.