An earlier version of this was first posted on 13th June 2013
- Are the same old issues arising in your team?
- Have you joined a team that is stuck in its ways?
- Is the team intimidated by new challenges which seem like one step too far?
- Have you ever felt “we’ve been here before“?
- Are the moaners still moaning?
- Would the team, if honest, say that they are stagnant, uninspired, or just jogging along?
In the words of Douglas Adams
All teams go through various stages of development, from confidence to crisis, from challenge to success, from discomfort to familiarity, from suspicion to support. These cycles can occur in any order, sometimes a positive progression forwards but occasionally involving backsliding and disillusionment. A third common state is no change at all – being stuck in a rut – for months, or maybe years.
The classic observation on team development was made by Bruce Tuckman and his memorable ‘Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing’ model. It helpfully sets out some of things to address which will oil the wheels of positive team development.
Clear goals, clear ground-rules (i.e. the ways we work together, talk to each other, and use the time and space that we share), clear roles. These are the simple building blocks of effective teams. These things give space for individuals to get on with the work that they do alone and to interact effectively in the things that they need to do together. Clarifying these things as a team should also give space for people to raise questions or challenge things which don’t work well or appear to have little purpose.
So change the way the team works without meddling with the people in it. This gives everyone the choice to make progress alongside their colleagues – which, frankly, most people are quite happy to do.
Tuckman, B.W. (1965) Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin 65, no.6: 384–99.
Tuckman, B.W. and Jensen M.A. (1977) Stages of small-group development revisited. Group and Organization Studies 2, no. 4: 419–27.
Optional bedtime reading: