Tuckman’s Team Developmental Model
Book Review by Adam Chan
Date of Review: 7th July 2007
The four stages of team forming is an evergreen model used by countless facilitators who conduct teambuilding or leadership related workshops. Frequently, it is the tip of the iceberg of the model that is being used. In fact, beneath the iceberg, it holds great substance and relevance to the activity we used day to day. Now we are all familiar with to tip, you are invited to join the journey to dive into its depth and certainly we will make amazing discoveries.
The diagram above presents the 5 stages and its relation to one another.
Forming is the initial stage for all team formation. Members are curious about each other; communication is generally superficial and courteous. It can be hierarchical especially for some new teams that were formed with a defined structure. Occasion awkwardness can be felt as the each member is adjusting to the new “team atmosphere”. If a leader has been appointed, the situation calls for a directive style in leading as the team is in a volatile stage, waiting for someone to shine the light.
Getting into disagreement is inevitable for teams. As part the growing stage, if the storm did not sink the ship, it will make the crew stronger. It is common that intra-communication is broken down and it bears no structure too. Cliques started forming to establish pecking order, frequent disagreements result tension to fill the “team atmosphere”. Boundaries are taking shape but it is still very vague to the members. A leader under such situation should play as a coach, giving timely advices to the members, as such taking the team out of the storm gradually.
Out of the storm, come the still waters. Progressively, intra-communication of the team takes on a clearer structure. Crucially team members are reflective of their behaviors that led or lagged the team’s performance. Roles and responsibilities are in placed, stability is felt by all. Imperatives to the team, goals and targets are well defined and accepted by the members. A leader should facilitate and enable the members to act at this stage.
Most wanted by all teams, the stage of performing. Generative and productive is the way they would communicate. The trusting attitude and openness enabled them to resolve any conflicts without needing intervention from the leader. Not only the team is task oriented and drive, each member is also well equipped with the required functional skills to act and perform. Seeking for development opportunities from the leader is common in this stage. The leader takes a back seat by delegation of tasks to the members and things will get done.
This stage signifies each member’s departure from the team. Usually, the required tasks have been completed and the purpose has been achieved. Members can now move on to new tasks or another team. It is common to hand over the incomplete tasks to another team. However, the members will retain the memories of their successful journey. Adjourning also means changing and inadvertently, this would induce uncertainly and anxiety to some members. The exiting leader should exercise resolution and firmness when communicating the impending changes.
Do we consciously observe how we tie our shoe laces? Unlikely we would but when our shoe laces keep coming undone while we walk, would curiosity arouse us to re-look at how we do it? While we are very familiar with the Tuckman model, it is a constant challenge for us to innovate on the way we can apply the model in our activities; especially in various aspects like frontload, debrief or framing of the activity.
If we think that hammer is the only tool, we tend to see every problem as a nail. To explore Tuckman’s model further, think along the line of designing debrief questions around it. To align your effort to achieve seamlessness, create isomorphs in your activity that are parallel to the Tuckman model. By this, participants will feel the direct relevance between the activity outcome to the model. Good frontloading means half the battle won; there is always room to innovate. Let’s learn the technique of fishing instead of waiting for others to fish for us. Some suggested debrief questions that are built around the Tuckman.
The above review content is extracted and summarized from,
1. Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming by Priest and Gauss, Chapter 5