of Birth; 26/11/1968
For the purpose of my essay, I am
going to take a look and discuss one of the simplest but widely regarded and
respected theories on Group Development of recent times; one of the
most influential studies in this area is Bruce Tuckman’s (1965). He proposed
the four-stage model called ‘Tuckman’s Stages for a Group,’ which states that
the ideal group decision-making process should occur in four stages:
In my essay, I am going to take a look at how these
four stages related to my time on the Train the Trainer Course and also to look
at how they relate to my day to day work as an Operations manager in a utilities
company managing teams of employees. I
will look to see if there are similarities between both and if the theories of
the classroom are the same as that of the workplace. Can one simply transfer the ideology of one
situation to another and get the same results from a completely different
demographic. These are four concepts
that are so simple in their approach it is easy to see or understand why
someone who was not exposed to the concepts would not look for the traits
displayed by the team members. Tuckman
maintained that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the
team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions,
to plan work, and to deliver results.
On Day 1 of our Train the Trainer course we came
together as 8 unknown individuals from quite varied and diverse backgrounds. Unknown to us at that time that this was the first
stage of Bruce Tuckman’s (1965) theory that involves the bringing together of a
group of individuals to form a team. At that stage we were all very positive
about starting out on our Train the Trainer journey and while we were positive
about that journey that lay ahead it is considered normal to be perhaps a
little closed to or a little bit anxious about other members on the course,
such as who they are and what they are like.
Tuckman goes on to tell us that the behaviour of an
individual is driven by a desire to be accepted by the other team members and
to avoid conflict which will inevitably result in serious issues being avoided,
or put off, as team members concentrate on non-confrontational or routine
issues. This can be disastrous for the
progression of a team or group as the reluctance to engage in and resolve areas
of conflict means that the team accomplishes very little and the underlying
differences which have been brushed aside will eventually surface and have to
be addressed so the team is back to square one again or at a stalemate.
At this point it is about building relationships
within the group and clarifying the team’s mission. This was done in a relaxed
and professional fashion by the course tutor.
The use of a structured session plan for the lesson and presentations on
the first morning were in my opinion crucial.
Again while we were not aware of its significance at the time, the Ice-Breaker
was a great tool to aid with the breaking down of the little barriers
that we subconsciously put up to the other course participants. Within the first 2 hours one could already
sense that the participants were relaxing and warming to the other learners on
The course tutor brought the class of learners
through the forming stage with ease and while we were not aware of it at the
time…she facilitated us to break down the barriers and allowed us an insight
into the each other and what might make us tick as individuals. She outlined the task at hand for the next 6
weeks and how we would need to work cohesively and Gel as a unit or team to
face the challenges and opportunities supporting each other and also how we
might go about the task.
This type of planning is easily transferable to the
workplace and while maybe not in the guise of an ice breaker asking “what your
favourite food is”, it is my opinion that careful consideration of how to
introduce new members to the workplace and to quickly make them feel relaxed to
their new colleagues and to also make their new colleagues receptive to the new
member can aid in having the team settle into the Norming stage much quicker
and also onto the Performing stage.
Bruce Tuckman (1965) tells us that the length of
this first stage will depend on how clearly the task is defined and on how much
experience the individuals have of working in a team. A team or groups with
simple tasks to perform will move through initial training and induction stages
quickly, but groups with more difficult and specialised tasks may spend much
longer along this stage. In my workplace
I can see examples of these differences at play when a new member of staff may
be introduced to the operational team versus a new member of staff joining the
administration staff. Due to the vast
differences in tasks performed between the 2 groups, it always takes longer for
the admin staff to gel and the Storming phase will inevitably be considerably
longer than the operational team.
It is my experience in the workplace that as a
manager I need to be very ‘hands on’ at this stage, giving clear directions and
structure to make sure that my team build strong relationships. This is the
same as using the carefully planned out session plan that I referred to
earlier. A good manager or team leader
can facilitate this by making sure that all instructions and communications dispel
any confusion that could arise about roles and responsibilities.
One has to be careful to ensure that while
decisions being made in the majority of cases are by the team leader that no
team member is committing themselves to do too much, or too little, of the
planned work. As well as focusing on the
clearly defined task, it is by paying attention from the start to building good
relationships, that our team will perform better than teams whose managers rush
through or skip over the relationship-building stage.
During this second stage, when team members felt
more able to express and question opinions, I have witnessed more evidence of
internal conflict. My role as manager is to contain and attempt to divert this
energy into a more productive channel. I have also noticed a level of internal
conflict at this stage can and normally does cause a dip in team morale.
My management role has had to become more
supportive, guiding the team in their decision-making and offering explanations
of how these decisions came about. It is up to me to define what the organization
expects of the team in terms of professional behaviour.
This more instructional approach will enable a
manager, to prevent any conflict from getting out of control and poisoning
relationships between team members.
As the team begins to negotiate the work tasks and
duties and put forward their views on the best way to achieve the task outcome
disagreements will arise. Through active listening skills one can mediate and
help decisions to be made through compromise.
This is the most efficient way to attain the necessary outcomes.
While the team members confront each other’s ideas,
testing different viewpoints, discuss what the group needs to do, and how best
to accomplish it, the manager or team leaders role becomes one of a facilitator
building trust within sub-groups of the team.
Team storming, whilst it may be contentious and
unpleasant, will be resolved relatively quickly with guidance and support. As a
manager one must view this as a necessary step for the team to become a performing
and productive unit. Not as a laborious
task that should be avoided by burying your head in the sand and hoping it goes
away or sorts itself out.
The maturity in terms of attitude and approach to
problem resolution of some team members can be significant in determining
whether your team will ever move out of this stage.
Trying to railroad through this stage in the team’s
development you may find it becomes a permanent state, resulting in low morale
and lack of productivity. If you fear this is happening to your team you will
need to see how much flexibility you have in altering the makeup of your team
within the constraints of your organization.
I have found that by breaking up the team into
smaller units within the team it leads to increased morale and productivity.
group on the Train the Trainer course had reached the third stage of its
development it was clear to see that learners had a focus on resolving
differences so that the mission and goals can be clearly defined. Class learners were more open to the
suggestions and ideas of others. The
role of the team leader at that stage seemed to transfer from that of leader to
that of team member.
At the start of the 6 week course it was evident
that there were some stronger personalities and people that were shy in a group
situation. However, at the third stage,
the quieter ones were every bit as vocal as the stronger learners. This was because they had become comfortable
with each other and the group as a whole.
In my opinion this was part of the storming phase and came about through
robust classroom debate on the learning topics at hand.
Class learners were learning more about each other
and how they could work together to develop tools such as a problem-solving
process, a code of conduct, and a set of team values etc… Their attitudes were
characterized by decreasing animosities toward other learners; feelings of
cohesion, mutual respect, harmony, and trust; and a feeling of pleasure in
During the few group exercises that we were given
to complete it was clear to see the group had developed a sense of team pride,
and arrived at decisions that are more in line with the purpose rather than
from a position of compromise.
After working constantly with the team of
operational and administration staffs in my workplace bringing them through the
first 3 stages of development we have now reached the final stage of its
development and can now bring real benefits to the organization and our
customers providing a real and tangible benefit for all the stakeholders. The team that I now very much see myself as a
part of and not the leader are now competent, autonomous, and able to handle
the decision-making process without supervision. I like to think of my management style as one
that empowers adults to take responsibility for their actions. Once a staff member is trained in their
duties and properly inducted into the team and has come through the first 3
stages of Tuckman’s (1965) theory there is no barriers to them performing as a
normal part of the team.
When introducing a new staff member to the team
they are in fact performing their duties to an extent. While they would not be fully productive this
is allowed for and acceptable as part of their training period. It is at this ‘performing’ stage that work is
accomplished most effectively. Morale is high and the general atmosphere is
positive. Team members’ attitudes are characterized by positive feelings and
eagerness to be part of the team.
It is my conclusion from reflecting
on my learning experience on the Train the Trainer course and comparing that
with my role as an operations manager in a utilities company that Bruce W.
Tuckman’s (1965) model of the developmental sequence in small groups can
rightly be adopted as a helpful starting point about possible stages or phases
within different small groups. There is very little difference in how people
interact with people they don’t know when they come together to form a group or
team that is expected to perform together.
When the original article was written it was an important summary of the
existing literature – and its longevity reflects Tuckman’s ability to
categorize each stage and to get it right. While there may be all sorts of
debates around such approaches to stage theory, and around the need for a model
that reflects the flux of groups, there does seem to be some truth in the
assertion that small groups tend to follow a fairly predictable path. The magic of Tuckman’s theory is in its
simplicity. It is as plain on the nose
on ones face but unless it is demonstrated and understood the concept will be
lost on the team leader or manager.
Tuckman, Bruce W. (1965) ‘Developmental
sequence in small groups’, Psychological Bulletin.
Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, www.teambuilding.co.uk