Stages of Collaborative Group or Team’s Development

Stages of a Collaborative Group or Team’s Development


Dr. Bruce Tuckman published his Forming Storming Norming Performing model in 1965. He added a fifth stage, Adjourning, in the 1970’s. This theory is an elegant and helpful explanation of team development and behaviour. Our experience at Mediation Services has been that groups more frequently follow the progression of:

  1. Forming
  2. Norming
  3. Storming
  4. Performing
  5. Adjourning

The Features of Each Phase:

Forming – stage 1

High focus on ‘checking each other out’ – figuring out what the spoken and unspoken agreements that we will live by are in hierarchical groups there may be a high dependence on the leader for guidance and direction. Individual roles, boundaries, expectations and responsibilities are unclear. Members are unwilling to test each other – the emphasis is on being cautious.

Norming – stage 2

Agreement and consensus – both spoken and unspoken – has formed among team members. Caution is still present, although an observer may be able to see the beginnings of differentiation and conflict. On the surface, the group gets along fairly well, but major areas of disagreement are avoided, or they are resolved by the will of the leadership. Groups in this stage are fairly easy to work with. The group may have a higher opinion of itself than is deserved. There will be fun and laughter, ‘in-jokes’ and an assumption that ‘we are all on the same page.’

Storming – stage 3

Up to this point, people have participated in the group on the basis of sameness – now people test “Is it okay to be different? That is, is it okay to be truly myself?” Decisions don’t come easily within group – even decisions that would seem to be easy to make. Team members may vie for position as they attempt to establish themselves in relation to other team members. Clarity of purpose increases but plenty of uncertainties persist. Cliques and factions form and there may be power struggles and overt outbreaks of conflict. This is not a pretty or easy time – but it is an important time, as the group develops depth and trust.

Performing – stage 4

The team is more strategically aware and knows clearly why it is doing what it is doing. The team has a shared vision and is able to stand on its own feet with no interference of participation from the leader. The team has a high degree of autonomy. Disagreements occur but now they are resolved within the team positively and necessary changes to processes and structure are made by the team. There is space for and acceptance of diversity in a team that has reached this stage. The team is able to work towards achieving the goal, and also to attend to relationship, style and process issues along the way. Team members look after each other. The team does not need to be instructed or assisted. Team members might ask for assistance from a leader with personal and interpersonal development.

Adjourning – stage 5

The team is focussed on the end or winding down of the project. People have different ways of doing this. Some people don’t like to say “good-bye” but rather “see you again.” Others prefer to make a bigger deal of the ending and will need some ritual or gesture in order to help release grief and feel a sense of closure.

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