Tuckman's Theory of Group Development
The Management guru Charles Handy once described the organisation of people akin to herding cats - difficult by design! As a result, there are few managers who escape the often tricky problem of managing people. People tend to find themselves in a managerial position because they have excelled at certain skills, be it handling a budget, administration, decision making, etc, but if they are then going to manage a team, it is clearly necessary that they understand how people work together and how to keep individuals motivated.
Groups play an increasingly important team role in our lives. They affect the way we think, what we value and believe, how we feel and how we behave and they play an increasingly important role in the effective performance of organisations. We have seen an increasing move to the specialisation of individuals.
This has led to a lack in breadth of skills or knowledge in order to make decisions alone about complex issues. Hence a concerted group effort is needed which is why team development is crucial. If this team development is going to be achieved, managers must gain an understanding of group dynamics, how people actually behave with each other.
Tuckman's model, developed in 1965, is widely used and has the advantage of being easily remembered. Tuckman found that all groups follow the stages of Forming Storming Norming Performing Ending/Dorming.
Forming This is the early stage of getting to know other people in the group and of committing yourselves to the achievement of a task. The main managerial responsibility here is to create a good atmosphere where team members feel safe enough to take risks, providing adequate resources, providing confidence the task can be completed, etc.
Storming As the name suggests, this may be a turbulent time for some teams! The group raise questions about power and influence - 'Who has the control here?' They may also be about the role of the manager, 'What will you do if...?', 'Do you make all the decisions or are some things negotiable?' They may also relate to power issues between group members - do they have things in common, is one person trying to gain control, etc. Concerns are not always overtly raised, but some dialogue must take place to settle the worries of the group members.
Norming This is a settling down period with the establishment of rules and codes of conduct. Written procedures may well be put in place to help solidify overt norms, although underlying norms are being established all the time through non-verbal communication. These more predictable patterns of behaviour contribute to a feeling of safety amongst group members.
Performing This only occurs once the group has settled and is more predictable and when rules of behaviour have been agreed. Work can then begin on the tasks at hand. It is fair to say that the four stages are never as clear cut as this. There are times when the group can go back in stages at any time; Norming is generally taking place at least non-verbally during the forming phase, etc. Also, the timing varies considerably. However, whatever happens in your group, a constant awareness of these processes is a sensible approach. You must also remember that teams need building and developing if they are to remain effective and energised.
Ending/Dorming This could be the end of the task or of a particular team, for example, when someone leaves. The ending of any group needs to be given attention, not only through learnt lessons, but because it acknowledges the importance of what has occurred.
Specific Activities to support Tuckman's Model: