Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing: Group dynamics of Tuckman

Group of Multi Ethnic Corporate People having a Business Meeting

Introduction

Bruce W. Tuckman, a psychologist and teacher devised a model for group development in 1965. From formation to completion of a task a group, according to Tuckman, goes through four stages, namely: forming, storming, norming, and performing. Any team while completing a task goes though these four stages knowingly or unknowingly. This theory is relevant for any team building process or for tasks undertaken by a team. Tuckman added 'adjourning and transformation' phase as a finishing touch to these four phases in group dynamics.

Tuckman's team building activities are in fact useful in observing group behavior within a given time frame. For any team there could be projects that last over months or even over years and this theory helps in analyzing group behavior during that phase.

Forming

Whenever a project comes the first step is to create a team for its completion and execution. In this team building process a leader has to play a crucial role as every member has to be selected thoughtfully. These members could be existing or new, with the challenges of the latter being obviously higher. Behaviors of members are amiable in this stage as they want to be a part of a team and accepted by other members. Conflicts and controversies are consciously avoided as members want to get acquainted in this phase. Each member tries to create an impression and gather information about others. Focus in this stage is more on organization building and learning about any new task. Team members are in their best demeanor in this phase.

Tuckman classifies 'formation' stage as 'comfortable' as conflicts are knowingly evaded. Members meet and become acquainted to the project, its opportunities, outcome and challenges. Goals are set and responsibilities of individual members defined. Formation stage is important since it is initiation to any new project. Members in addition to getting familiar with other members also familiarize themselves with the new project.

Storming

In this stage a group is already set with members knowing each other well. As members are comfortable about each other they begin expressing themselves. Conflicts and challenges are regular during this phase. However, unpleasant it might sound, this expression of discontent is natural and shows that members are behaving normally. In a group it is quite natural that opinions differ giving rise to disagreements even to the extent of destruction. It is the responsibility of a manger or team leader to prevent such disruptions. Disagreements are normal and should be sorted out with reasoning by team leader. Many teams try and arrive at a consensus in cases of such disagreements. This is not always justifiable as arriving at a consensus shifts the focus of a team away from actual objective. A manager or a team leader must never prioritize on arriving at a consensus, but focus on completing a task.

During this stage it is important for team leader to remain easily accessible to all members. However, for making decisions some bold steps might be taken. Tolerance and patience are the two main attributes that are visible in this phase. A manager must never allow discontents take precedence over other constructive functions within a group. Disagreements should be keys to members becoming more versatile and strong as a group.

Norming

Storming gradually leads to Norming. From a violent storming stage team leaders pacify and reason out with disagreeing members to attain normalcy. With team members knowing each other better in this phase, there are distinct possibilities of socializing among members. Opinions are exchanged and individual members are willing to help one another in working towards a common goal or team objective.

It should be noted that norming and storming have a tendency to overlap. Even when a team moves from "storming" to "norming" and situation veers towards normalcy, a new task or assignment could once again take the team back to "storming". Members run the risk of becoming complacent in "norming" stage and in the process loses their creativity or enthusiasm. A leader must ensure to keep team members motivated right through.

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Performing

This is the stage where hard work put in by team members matures as a result. This result is achieved by a team and a definite process in an agreeable manner. Practically a group reaches this stage when members are agreeable to a task and work in unison for completing it. It is assumed that a group reaching this stage is high performing and not impaired by conflicts. Members are motivated and work towards completing a task even without external supervision. A managers task becomes redundant as team members are self-motivated and competent. They are capable of handling any situation and independent to take decisions on the task at hand. Even though dissentions may arise they are sorted out amicably as focus of the members is on achievement of a given task.

Though a leader does not have much to perform his presence is essential. Absence of a leader could lead a team back to its storming phase. Dissentions and conflicts also arise when a leader is changed.

Adjourning and transformation

Bruce Tuckman added this stage to his already existing four stages in group dynamics. Normally groups are formed whenever a new project comes to an organization. Managers always try to create groups of like-minded people so that they get along well and help in completing a task as required. After a project is over team disbandment is natural. A team gets adjourned and members are absorbed in other capacities. It becomes difficult for team members to adjust to this sudden change in structure. In case of large organizations these members get suitably absorbed, while for smaller companies the future of employees is often uncertain when projects are over.

Conclusion

Tuckman's theory is only a model subject to testing in different kinds of organizational setups. Interesting aspect about this model is its distinct phases in group formation. This is true for organizations in every scale: small, medium, and large. This dynamics is even visible in clubs and homes.

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