Tuckman's Theory of Group Development

Tuckman's Theory of Group Development

Bruce Tuckman was a psychologist who developed the theory of 5 stages of development in 1965, the model consisted of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing areas. Later he added a 5th stage, ‘Adjourning’ to the model in the 1970s. 

The idea behind the model is you can’t expect a new team to form and perform to the best of their capabilities. It takes each member of the team some time to interact with their group members and adjust themselves with their work culture and environment.

Significance of Tuckman’s Model

The model explains how a team’s maturity and ability develops and relationships establish as leadership style changes. Tuckman’s model gives understanding of how groups develop. It is helpful in training people for group work and work up to their full potential. However, guidance to the team is important such as;

  • Setting purpose and mission of your project/ company and clearly define its goals
  • Setting ground rules and making sure they are followed
  • Team leader exists but it is still a tiring process, let other members act as facilitators too
  • Conflicts should not be avoided as they can be healthy as well when bringing in people from diverse backgrounds, having different set of skills and opinions to complete the task and bond at a point during the whole process
  • Always listen to each member in the group - key to finding the best ‘big ideas’

The five stages of team development

  • Forming

Forming is the first stage of team development and is much like your first experience associated with anything in the world; may be your first day at work, your class or any session you plan to take forward for a considerable period of time. It is the introduction period where you are introduced with everyone, it is exciting and you get to know about how things work at that place.

At this stage you may focus on your goals, timeline, rules and regulation and your individual roles. As the group forms team members develop relationships and your work team gets productive with time. During this time period there is high dependence on the leader for guidance, he or she is there to sort out most of your queries, members also test the leader’s tolerance but this is how it works and the leader is there to guide you.

Strategy to follow at this stage: Help members set personal goals, create a team charter and see how it works.

  • Storming

The second stage of group development is storming where you are past the introduction stage and are well aware of the reality and weight of the task. In a group your personalities may clash, there may be disagreements on ways to complete a task and questions may also be raised on the authority of group leaders. But it is natural as any team formed does experience conflict and members’ disagreements are normal. This stage is classified by lack of agreement in group discussions, clarity of team purpose increases but there may be uncertainties. 

Strategy to follow at this stage: Build team trust, ask for help on tasks, do not leave team conflict unchecked and look for everyone’s point of view. 

  • Norming

The third stage is classified by agreement from the team. Big decisions are made by the group, the team may engage in different activities and there is unity and respect in all team members for each other and the leader who facilitates the group. 

Strategy to follow at this stage: Practice virtual team-building exercises and work on your social connections.

  • Performing

This stage is achieved when the members of the group are strong and confident, motivated to work on their projects with their team and can also work without supervision. Fourth stage is the one that all groups strive to achieve, there is a shared vision, a focus on achieving goals, disagreements but they are now resolved within the team in a positive and mature manner. Team members look after each other and the leader only provides assistance. 

Strategy to follow at this stage: Boost team engagement and delegate more tasks and projects. Make time for the group's personal development.

  • Adjourning

After refining the theory of stages of team development, Tuckman added a fifth stage to the model. Adjourning is relevant to the people in the group but not to the main task of managing and developing a team. It is the split between the group when the task is completed successfully. 

Here, the members feel a sense of insecurity or threat from this change in experience. It is natural to feel that this time is difficult and this is why it is also referred to as Mourning. 

Strategy to follow at this stage: Celebrate team’s achievements, share your experiences and boost your team’s confidence by praising them at company meetings. Provide mentorship and career guidance to peers. 360 - degree feedback may help to reflect and learn better.





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