Tuckman Model: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing

Tuckman Model: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing

Leadership of teams requires an ability to diagnose the stage of development of teams, and make appropriate interventions that move the team forward. The Tuckman model of team development is an old one and very simple, but it is still very useful. Tuckman's model explains that as the team develops maturity and ability, relationships establish, and the leader changes leadership style. Beginning with a directing style, moving through coaching, then participating, finishing delegating and almost detached. At this point the team may produce a successor leader and the previous leader can move on to develop a new team.

Our consultants help your teams to understand the stage of development of their team in Tuckman terms, and then outline the types of interventions that will move the team forward. Using the wrong type of intervention can, at best, be ineffective and, at worst, destroy any good teamwork that already exists. It is important, therefore, to use the right approach.

The progression is:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing

Forming - Stage 1

  • High dependence on leader for guidance and direction
  • Little agreement on team aims other than received from leader
  • Individual roles and responsibilities are unclear
  • Leader must be prepared to answer lots of questions about the team's purpose, objectives and external relationships
  • Processes are often ignored
  • Members test tolerance of system and leader
  • Leader directs (similar to Situational Leadership® 'Telling' mode).

 Storming - Stage 2

  • Decisions don't come easily within group
  • Team members vie for position as they attempt to establish themselves in relation to other team members and the leader, who might receive challenges from team members
  • Clarity of purpose increases but plenty of uncertainties persist
  • Cliques and factions form and there may be power struggles
  • The team needs to be focused on its goals to avoid becoming distracted by relationships and emotional issues
  • Compromises may be required to enable progress. Leader coaches (similar to Situational Leadership® 'Selling' mode).

Norming - Stage 3 

  • Agreement and consensus is largely forms among team, who respond well to facilitation by leader
  • Roles and responsibilities are clear and accepted
  • Big decisions are made by group agreement
  • Smaller decisions may be delegated to individuals or small teams within group
  • Commitment and unity is strong
  • The team may engage in fun and social activities
  • The team discusses and develops its processes and working style
  • There is general respect for the leader and some of leadership is more shared by the team
  • Leader facilitates and enables

Performing - Stage 4

  • The team is more strategically aware; the team knows clearly why it is doing what it is doing
  • The team has a shared vision and is able to stand on its own feet with no interference or participation from the leader
  • There is a focus on over-achieving goals, and the team makes most of the decisions against criteria agreed with the leader
  • The team has a high degree of autonomy
  • Disagreements occur but now they are resolved within the team positively and necessary changes to processes and structure are made by the team
  • The team is able to work towards achieving the goal, and also to attend to relationship, style and process issues along the way.
  • Team members look after each other
  • The team requires delegated tasks and projects from the leader
  • The team does not need to be instructed or assisted
  • Team members might ask for assistance from the leader with personal and interpersonal development
  • Leader delegates and oversees

Adjourning- Stage 5

Bruce Tuckman refined his theory around 1975 and added a fifth stage to the Forming Storming Norming Performing model - he called it Adjourning, which is also referred to as Deforming and Mourning. Adjourning is arguably more of an adjunct to the original four stage model rather than an extension - it views the group from a perspective beyond the purpose of the first four stages. The Adjourning phase is certainly very relevant to the people in the group and their well-being, but not to the main task of managing and developing a team, which is clearly central to the original four stages.

Tuckman's fifth stage, Adjourning, is the break-up of the group, hopefully when the task is completed successfully, its purpose fulfilled; everyone can move on to new things, feeling good about what's been achieved. From an organizational perspective, recognition of and sensitivity to people's vulnerabilities in Tuckman's fifth stage is helpful, particularly if members of the group have been closely bonded and feel a sense of insecurity or threat from this change. 

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