Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development

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In 1965, Dr. Bruce W. Tuckman suggested that teams need to go through three stages of development before reaching the fourth stage of performing:

tuckman

 

  • Forming: the team is established. Individuals are anxious about their personal identity, role, the impression they make, and the attitudes and backgrounds of others.
    • what the team members are doing: being positive and polite, getting to know their teammates;
    • what the team members are usually feeling: anxiety, excitement, ambivalence;
  • Storming: differences emerge between individuals as they sort out their roles. This stage is characterised by hostility and disruption.
    • what the team members are doing: debating issues, considering options, aware of differences;
    • what the team members are usually feeling: resistance, anger;
  • Norming: the team develops ways of working together. Closer relationships are created and real camaraderie may emerge. Roles and norms are established.
    • what the team members are doing: making agreements, establishing procedures;
    • what the team members are usually feeling: relief;
  • Performing: the team becomes productive.
    • what the team members are doing: good use of resources, commitments delivered;
    • what the team members are usually feeling: comfortable, satisfied, attached;

The project manager’s behaviour will also vary by stage with the project manager generally being more relationship-oriented in the first three stages and more task-oriented in the final one.

Project managers need to understand these stages (and feelings) to help their teams reach the performing stage.

Note: Tuckman refined his theory around 1975 and added a fifth stage – Adjourning, effectively the break-up of the group when its purpose is fulfilled.

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