In the world of team building and team work, nearly every leader I visited with during the last two years, tells me that there are four stages to the process, namely, forming, storming, norming, and performing. Our challenge is that this original research was created by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. From my perspective, I do not think this analog model works well within the digital era. Instead a new model needs to be created.
What follows is a high level description of what I see are the new stages of team development in the digital era. The first stage is Forming. Here, the team meets and learns about the opportunity or challenge. People behave independently. The goal or goals are defined. Urgency is created. Discussions around the scope of the work and role clarity begin. The keys to success are to find the right people with capacity for the work of a team, build urgency, create SMART goals and avoid the default of becoming a single leader work group.
The next stage is Norming. Here, people take responsibility for their work and focus on getting things done. Team performance improves until fear of conflict, personality differences, and artificial harmony surfaces. Remember 4-D teams are prone to the problems of “us vs. them” thinking, breaking into several sub-groups, and working with incomplete information. Therefore, the keys to success are to unpack the strategic nexus and create alignment with it, promote “structured unstructured time” to build common perspective and shared experiences, continue the development of clarity about the context for team action, and make sure individuals, subgroups and the team as a whole feel valued for their contributions toward the team’s overall goals.
The third stage is Transforming. Here, team issues related to trust, pace, conflict, and inconsistency in work arise. The team has to learn how to evaluate ideas, give feedback, and avoid group conformity and groupthink. The team also has to learn how to support people individually and the group collectively. The keys to success are to institute routine coaching or check-in sessions, deal with spatial, relationship, or strategic blindnesses, deal with individual or organizational resistance related to the execution of team based goals, and prevent coordination neglect related to staff time, training & resource management.
The fourth stage is Performing. Here the team re-establishes group norms, creates realistic timelines and re-defines role clarity and expectations. Team members commit to team decisions and plans of action, hold one another accountable, and focus on the achievement of collective results. At this point, the keys to success are to implement routine pre-mortems to temper optimism, define and track lead performance indicators, and integrate data based decision making into team meetings & actions.
The fifth stage is Improving. Here, using key performance indicators, the team improves their performance and refines their ability to work collectively. They also collaborate better with internal partners and external stakeholders. Now leaders must utilize a balanced scorecard approach to performance management, and implement routine strategic reviews to build personal and team accountability.
The final stage is Adjourning/Mourning. The goal or goals are accomplished and all tasks are completed. The team dissolves until a new team is needed. Now, all involved must implement in-depth after-action reports in order to improve future team action and organizational resilience.
With the above in mind, I believe we have evolved from forming -storming - norming - performing into a more realistic model for the digital era called forming - norming - transforming - performing - improving - adjourning/mourning. This week think about your best teams and reflect on the stages they went through to get to this point. I believe you will find some common ground with the above model.