How to Exploit the 5 Team Stages of Development Effectively

The five team stages of development are something every newly formed team goes through. Some teams progress through the stages faster than others but they all go through the stages. The five stages are forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.

Importance of Understanding Team Stages of Development

As a supervisor and leader, understanding the team stages of development can help you progress your team through them faster. It also helps you know what to expect when forming a new team. Too often supervisors think a team is a complete failure when they go through the storming stage. I have seen this many times in my career and a lot of times instead of helping the team advance through this stage, supervisors end up prolonging it. It’s important to notice when the team is going into a stage so you can help them progress through it.

Forming Stage of Team Development (Developing Stage)

The first stage teams go through, is the forming stage also known as the developing stage. This is the stage where team members get to know each other. Getting a feel for what each person is capable of. During this stage, people are normally polite and conflict is typically low.

It is important for you as the leader to clarify team member roles and the goals of the entire team. Remember, it’s important to be very clear with your expectations and each member’s role on the team. If you assume people already know something, you are setting yourself up for failure. These actions will set you up for a less severe storming stage.

Storming Stage of Team Development

Image of a storm representing the storming team stage of development

During the storming stage, people have gotten to know each other, and conflict may be a little higher. People may also begin to go against leadership and the norms established in the forming stage. Some members of the team may begin to question whether the goals of the team are worth it or attainable. Even ones that are still trying to pursue the goals of the team, may have trouble because they don’t have the support of others on the team.

This is the most critical stage in the team’s stages of development. It is in this stage that a team is most likely to fail. Therefore, it is important for you as the leader to recognize when a team is in this stage so you can help them move on to the next stage. It’s important to not try and force a team past this stage. As a leader, you should try to guide the team through it. If there are conflicts between members try to help them resolve their differences and remind everybody how important each member is to the team.

For more information on moving past the storming stage see this article “How we move beyond storming— week 4“.

Norming Stage of Team Development

Teams gradually move past the storming stage into the norming stage. This happens when conflicts begin to resolve, and everybody begins to respect and understand each other’s roles on the team. Cooperation and teamwork begin to pick up because members are trusting each other more. Working as a team begins to become the new normal.

When your team is in this stage, it’s important to encourage teamwork and collaboration. Ensure individual egos are kept in check and praise the team as a whole for their accomplishments often. Help your team realize how much stronger they are together and how much more they can accomplish as a team. This will help your team move on to the next stage and not regress into the storming stage.

Performing Stage of Team Development

Image of teamwork Team Arrows representing the performing team stage of development

When teams reach this stage, they begin to operate at very high efficiency with relative ease. Even when faced with problems, they solve them with little to no intervention and move on. The team operates in a manner that is almost automatic and independent. The leader must do very little to keep the team on track because they share common goals and understand each member’s role in accomplishing those goals.

Adjourning Stage of Team Development

This is the final team stage of development many teams eventually face. This is when it is time for a team to dissolve. Whether it’s because it was a time-based project or maybe the company is restructuring. This is not a time to burn bridges because you may work with some of these employees in the future. If possible, it is good to have a debrief with members of the team to find out what worked and what didn’t. This can be useful information for everyone on the team including you as the leader. The meeting can be something as informal as a group lunch or even an exit survey of some sort.

How to Use Team Stages of Development

It is very hard to force a team to work well together. They must progress through the team stages of development naturally before they make it to the performing stage. Understanding these stages can help you develop a team development model.

As a leader, you want to recognize what stage your team is in and do your best to facilitate them into the next stage. Once your team makes it to the performing stage, they should need very little direction but always keep an eye on your team to ensure they are not slipping back into one of the previous stages.

Related Content: Group Dynamics: Understanding Team Member Roles in The Workplace.

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Group Dynamics: 5 Team Stages of Development

How to Exploit the 5 Team Stages of Development Effectively

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