The Tuckman Model
When a team first come together or new people join a team, it takes time to get to a place of smooth and effective collaboration. Like any relationship, the working relationship between team members goes through a certain arc before arriving at a place of easy connection and communication.
Psychologist, Bruce Tuckman came up with a model for understanding the phases a team goes through as they come together. The Tuckman Model was first introduced in his 1965 paper “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” He defined four stages – forming, storming, norming and performing – and later added a fifth stage he called adjourning or mourning (when a team comes to the end of their work together).
Let’s take a closer look at each of these stages to understand their characteristics:
When a team first comes together, there is lots of work to do to get clear on their shared mission, purpose, roles and how to collaborate effectively. This is a period of getting to know each other and figuring out some degree of shared identity and purpose, as well as an understanding of the individuals who make up the team.
After getting to know each other and becoming to some extent comfortable as a new team, there comes a period of conflict, friction and boundary testing. Our different personalities and ways of working start to rub up against each other and potentially clash. It is important at this stage to address conflicts and tensions directly and be prepared to hold challenges to leadership and mission.
As the storm begins to pass, the team is left with a clearer understanding and appreciation for each other’s unique capabilities and strengths. This often heralds a time of greater closeness and improved communication among the team, as well as a commitment to shared purpose that is stronger after withstanding the tests and challenges of the previous stage.
At this stage, the members of the team know each other well, are established in their roles, and also feel comfortable enough to be fluid and adaptable within the needs of the organization. These conditions allow the team to perform at their best and deliver on their full collaborative potential. A team in the performing stage are likely to show peak performance and regularly meet targets and achieve goals.
This stage represents a natural closure of a team when a project, organization, or particular configuration of people comes to an end. This may be a sad or challenging time for members of the team, and you may think about how to make a good ending together – as permitted by the contexts.
Check out this short article (2 mins) that explains the five stages of the Tuckman Model.