Team effectiveness is enhanced by a team’s commitment to reflection and ongoing evaluation. In addition to evaluating accomplishments in terms of meeting specific goals, for teams to be high performing, it is essential for them to understand their development as a team. Most of us are familiar with the concept of “the terrible twos” in early childhood; understanding that developmental stage makes it easier to accept the constant stream of “No, No, No, No, No” that we might hear from a two-year-old. Teams go through stages of development. The most commonly used framework for a team’s stages of development was developed in the mid-1960s by Bruce W. Tuckman.
Although many authors have written variations and enhancements to Tuckman’s work, his descriptions of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing provide a useful framework for looking at your own team. Each stage of team development has its own recognizable feelings and behaviours; understanding why things are happening in certain ways on your team can be an important part of the self-evaluation process.
Stage 1: Forming
During the Forming stage of team development, team members are usually excited to be part of the team and eager about the work ahead. Members often have high positive expectations for the team experience. At the same time, they may also feel some anxiety, wondering how they will fit in to the team and if their performance will measure up.
Behaviours observed during the Forming stage may include lots of questions from team members, reflecting both their excitement about the new team and the uncertainty or anxiety they might be feeling about their place on the team.
The principal work for the team during the Forming stage is to create a team with clear structure, goals, direction and roles so that members begin to build trust. A good orientation/kick-off process can help to ground the members in terms of the team’s mission and goals and can establish team expectations about both the team’s product and, more importantly, the team’s process. During the Forming stage, much of the team’s energy is focused on defining the team, so task accomplishment may be relatively low.