Every organisation needs effective staff in order to succeed and every team needs individuals who can work well together.
Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing is a phrase used to describe the four stages that a group of people will go through when they first start to work together as a team.
This could be as they work through a specific project from beginning to end or it could be on an ongoing basis as work colleagues in an organisation.
Who came up with the concept of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing?
The idea was conceived in 1965 by Bruce Tuckman, a US psychological researcher. The theory he put forward – Tuckman’s stages of group development – set out these four stages, which he said were both necessary and inevitable for any team that wanted to address challenges, solve problems, progress and achieve results.
What is the Forming stage?
In this initial phase, the team will be:
- Unsure about the team’s goals and where they fit in
- Experiencing emotions from excitement to nervousness and awkwardness
- Learning how to work with each other
- Relying on the team leader for direction
At this stage, the person directing the team needs to show strong and clear leadership, be prepared to answer questions and to address the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Activities such as icebreakers can help the team members to communicate with each other and build relationships. The aim should be to progress through this stage as quickly as possible.
What is the Storming stage?
This can be the most chaotic phase. Team members will:
- Get to know each other and the differences in working style
- Test boundaries, which can result in conflict
- Question anything from their colleagues’ capabilities to the leadership and project goals
- Navigate feelings that can range from confusion and frustration to mistrust
During this challenging stage, the team leader should keep everyone on track while building trust and avoiding situations that could cause the team to split into factions. They should give positive feedback and constructive criticism and encourage team members to do the same. Keep things clear and simple, breaking down the project into achievable stages and celebrating their completion.
What is the Norming stage?
This is an exciting stage, where team members will feel that:
- They and colleagues have settled into clear roles and responsibilities
- Focus can turn to using their talents to achieve results
- They need less hands-on management
- They can appreciate the contribution that others make to the team
In the Norming stage, individuals will be working better as a team. Carrying out projects, coming up with new ideas and making major decisions should become easier. It’s a time for taking risks and accepting failure as a learning process. Team leaders should give team members more opportunity to come up with ideas and solutions, without overlooking areas that still need improvement.
What is the Performing stage?
At this stage, the team should be performing at optimum levels. Team members will:
- Enjoy the work and working relationships
- Recognise the abilities and contributions of their colleagues
- Be able to manage any conflict that arises
The team leader should continue to give credit where its due, praise the team for goals achieved and celebrate successes. Continuous improvement remains important and experimenting with new ways of working can be considered.
What happens after the Performing stage?
Bruce Tuckman later added an ‘Adjourning’ stage into his model, in order to explain what happens when a project is finished and a team is broken up.
Teams that remain working together on projects may find themselves returning to an earlier stage of the process if there is a disruption, for example, if a new person arrives to expand the team or replace a someone who is leaving the organisation. This will require new relationships to be formed and can affect the way the team works until things settle down again. Equally, a new direction for the company could launch a settled team from the Performing phase back into the Storming stage.