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Stages of Team Development

Updated: Oct 2, 2018

Effective teams are essential in today's world. However, leading teams in a positive, productive direction is not always easy. It takes time, hard work and patience.



Team formation usually follows some recognizable stages as the team progresses to become united towards a common purpose. Understanding these stages provides teams and team members a framework to name where they are at collectively and individually. Having a way to identify and understand your teams behavior can help the team maximize its progress and productivity.


Tuckman's Stages

The most commonly used framework for determining stages of team development was introduced by Bruce Tuckman in the 1960's. His four stages and descriptions have withstood the test of time and provide a useful framework for looking at your own team.

  • Stage 1: Forming Teams initially go through a forming stage in which team members are often excited to be part of the team and eager about the work ahead. While members often have high expectations for the team, they may also feel some anxiety as to how they will fit in and if their performance will measure up. The principal roles of the team in this stage are to establish clear goals, structure, direction and expectations so that members can be effective and build trust in the process.

  • Stage 2: Storming As the team moves forward towards its goals, members discover the team may not be able to live up to all their early excitement and expectations. Focus may shift from the tasks set before them to feelings of frustration or anger with the team's progress or process. This stage often calls for the team to refocus its tasks, roles, expectations and goals, breaking them down into smaller, achievable steps to help team members past confusion and frustration.

  • Stage 3:  Norming Gradually, the team moves into the norming stage. In this stage, the team develops a stronger commitment to its goals and direction. A team in the norming stage often has an increase in productivity, loyalty, open communication, acceptance of team members and a willingness to share ideas and ask for help. Constructive criticism is both possible and welcomed as the team develops stronger cohesion.

  • Stage 4:  Performing In the performing stage, team members show high levels of commitment, loyalty, participation, motivation and group decision-making as the team makes significant progress towards its goals. Team members feel satisfaction with their progress. A "can do" attitude is visible as are offers to assist one another as various needs and responsibilities become apparent. Differences among team members are appreciated and used to enhance the team's performance.


Where's Your Team in the Stages?

Teams are formed because they can achieve far more than individual members can on their own. However, team formation takes time, patience, perseverance and good leadership. Whether your team is a newly formed group or long standing, understanding the stages can provide clarity, direction and understanding of how your team is functioning. Focusing on building high performance teams makes good business sense; it increases loyalty and productivity which in turn delivers superior business results.


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