Group Formation Model

Group Formation Model

A team does not become high performing from day one, uniting them and aligning the team around a common goal takes time. They normally go through a developmental sequence which Bruce Tuckman identified as: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

Understanding the way groups form can help managers shape interventions that enable a team to become high performing more quickly.

The model

The first stage of the model is “forming”

During this phase team members do not know each other very well and can be impersonal, guarded and polite. They are also waiting and watching for how things will unfold.

There is high dependence on leader for guidance and direction. Little agreement on team aims other than received from leader. Individual roles and responsibilities are unclear.

The second stage is “storming”

During this stage team members vie for position as they attempt to establish themselves in relation to other team members and the leader, who might receive challenges from team members. The result of this is that the team may lose members and face difficulties.

The thirds stage is “norming”

By this stage, agreement and consensus largely forms among the team, who respond well to facilitation by leader.

There is task focus and issues are confronted. Roles and responsibilities are clear and accepted and big decisions are made by group agreement.

The final stage is “Performing”

Now the team is more strategically aware; the team 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 or participation from the leader. There is a focus on over-achieving goals, and the team makes most of the decisions against criteria agreed with the leader.

Tuckman’s fifth stage – Adjourning

Bruce Tuckman refined his theory around 1975 and added a fifth stage to the Forming Storming Norming Performing model – he called it Adjourning, which is also referred to as Deforming and Mourning.

Find out more about this stage, and more information about the model here. 

Application of the model

Tuckman’s model explains that as the team develops maturity and ability, relationships establish, and the leader changes leadership style. Beginning with a directing style, moving through coaching, then participating, finishing delegating and almost detached. At this point the team may produce a successor leader and the previous leader can move on to develop a new team.

In summary, the Tuckman’s model is helpful tool to understand the stages of group formation. This enables you to adjust your management approach – depending on the stage the team is at – to be more effective and move the group more rapidly through the stages to high performing.

You can find out more about the model here.

Tuckman, Bruce W. (1965). Developmental Sequence in Small Groups. Psychological Bulletin 63.6 (1965): 384-399. Web.