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5 Stages of Teaming
5 Stages of Teaming
5 Stages of Teaming
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Overview

This model has persisted for over half a century and continues to inform the development of high performing teams — plus it rh ...

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Actionable Takeaways
  • Kick off project teams with a focus on connection and clarity. 

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5 Stages of Teaming is featured in these playbooks:
Limitations

Tuckman himself provided a criticism of his model, pointing out that it emphasised a “therapy-group setting” and did not consider broader types of teams. That said, many teams have found the model useful and applicable. 

Perhaps a more substantial critique was best captured by this study from the US Military in an Acquisition Research Program. They looked at 321 “small, short-duration technical teams within the Acquisition Community.” They found a 95% confidence level that Tuckman’s stages only applied to about 2% of the teams, but discovered that a modified version which viewed storming as an ongoing process throughout the team duration, as opposed to a defined stage, did apply to over 70% of the teams. 

In other words, the criticism consists of viewing these categories as linear stages — particularly the storming stage — rather than a part of a team, no matter what it’s developmental level. This might be more apparent in Agile based teams, though the evidence is still lacking to make a definitive call there. 

Proponents for the model might counter saying that conflict in a ‘storming’ stage plays out totally differently to the conflict in a ‘performing’ stage, with the latter being managed more constructively and not interrupting performance outcomes. 

In Practice

Tuckman applied to sports teams.

This article outlines the experience of sporting teams going through Tuckman’s stages. It provides examples of the formation of State or Olympic teams doing things such as stopping participants from wearing their team colours, instead quickly creating a new team identity in the forming stage. The article also advocates using profile assessments to provide athletes with self-awareness during the storming phase. 

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Origins & Resources

This model was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965 as a necessary framework to describe team development. Tuckman teamed with Mary Jensen in 1977 to write a paper titled Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited, which added a fifth stage of ‘adjourning’, often referred to as ‘mourning.’ 

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