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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 2, Lesson 4

Stages of Team Development

The four stages of small group development that were first described by Tuckman (1965) are still used as a basis for understanding teams today. Teams seem to go through predictable stages of change. Tuckman's (1965) four stages are briefly summarized below:

  1. Forming: A new group forms. Members are anxious and unsure of themselves. An atmosphere of uncertainty prevails.
  2. Storming: The team experiences conflict and tension as team members discard the superficial roles that characterized the Forming stage. Members struggle to define their roles in the group. Control issues are central.
  3. Norming: The team settles into a normative pattern. Ground rules and procedures have been established. The team is now much better able to focus on accomplishing specific tasks
  4. Performing: The team has become self-regulating and productive. There is pride in membership. The team is collaborating and meeting its goals.

Go to Tuckman's Model to follow the tutorial.

If this link does not work, go to the New York State Governor's Office of Employee Relations: home page Then, click 'next' to go to page 2. Then select 'Stages of Team Development.'

Please follow the tutorial through page 7. As you read the tutorial, take note of 1) the characteristics of each stage of team development and 2) procedures for addressing the team at each stage. Consider the applicability of this model to

  1. staff only work groups
  2. early intervention teams that include families.

Researchers have described a fifth stage of team development called 'Transforming.' According to Briggs (1997) Transforming teams are similar to Performing teams in that they show pride in membership and consistently demonstrate progress and productivity. What distinguishes the Transforming team is its response to change. Transforming teams "have a system in place to accommodate the departure of old members and the arrival of new ones" (Briggs, 1997, p. 82). Rather than disrupting the team, such transitions are short and smooth. For example, a team may have a 'buddy' system for helping new members become acquainted with the group. A Transforming team is able to maintain a high level of functioning as its members come and go. Briggs notes that the Transforming stage cannot really be considered an 'end point' since teams are constantly changing. Only the most mature and dedicated teams can be described as Transforming.

Problems During Team Development

As the team progresses through various stages of development, a number of problems can arise. For example, during the Forming stage, there is a prevailing sense of ambiguity and uncertainty. As a result, the team members look for leadership. "Dependence on authority characterizes the forming stage of a team" (Briggs, 1997, p. 67). At this point, a leader emerges. If a person was not already assigned as 'leader,' then one or more team members will fill the role. If leadership is not strong at this stage, the team may become disorganized and flounder. Members will not know what they are supposed to do and a lot of time will be wasted. At this stage, the team benefits from having clear roles and responsibilities (Landerholm, 1990). Strong leadership is not in itself sufficient. A leader must also be conscientious and competent. A strong leader is capable of pulling a group together, but without competence and conscience, he/she might lead the team in a negative direction.

Problems can also arise in the Storming stage. Professional differences tend to manifest during this stage. There must be a mechanism in place for voicing and resolving such differences. "Problems occur when some people on the team are afraid of conflict and sweep it under the rug" (Landerholm, 1990, p. 68). As a solution to this problem, Landerholm (1990) suggests that organizations provide training in basic communication skills (Lesson 3) and methods of conflict resolution (Lesson 5).

During any stage of team development, staff turnover can be disruptive. It is important to remember that teams are always changing. A team may progress to a certain stage and then slip back to a previous stage. For example, if a Performing team loses one or two key members, a return to the Norming stage may occur. The team will have to regroup and rebuild. Moreover, when a new task is undertaken, teams often experience a period of disequilibrium followed by a 're-forming' or 're-grouping' process. In any team, these kinds of changes are inevitable.

Another more insidious problem for organizations is providing sufficient time for team building. Teaming takes time. Members have to get to know one another both formally and informally. If an organization does not recognize and honor this process, team development can suffer.


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