Teams work in stages. How many do you know?
If you have ever led a team or simply been part of a group, you may have noticed there is a certain ebb and flow that occurs. The longer the team remains together, the more cohesive the group becomes.
What you may not be aware of is that teams operate on a life cycle. Simply put, there is a beginning, a midpoint, and an end. While this point may seem obvious, there are certain behavioral characteristics that occur which can give clues to progress.
What follows are five team life cycle stages for most groups that might surprise you. As you read through each, reflect on teams you have been part of in the past.
Do any of these seem familiar?
1) Forming Stage
This is when a team first gets together and begins to hold meetings. Typical characteristics include:
- Personal disclosure of information (ex: “I’m from Chicago”)
- Getting comfortable with one another
- Identification of group tasks
- Typically, people are courteous to one another and exercise caution during communications.
2) Storming Stage
During this phase, group members will often compete with one another for status, power, and control.
- Someone may try to position themselves as the alpha
- Disagreements may pop up about procedure or rules
- External pressures may interfere with group interactions
- Conflict can rise between individuals
- Strong personalities usually emerge. When two or more are present, there can be difficulties with decision making.
3) Norming Stage
At this point, the group begins to settle into a state of homeostasis. Cohesiveness begins to strengthen.
- Cooperation is a typical by product of discussions
- Balance between competing personalities occurs
- Group norms start to take hold that guide behaviors
- Trust in fellow teammates starts to rise
- The mission of the group becomes more clear
- Focus increases
4) Performing Stage
When a group has reached this point, everyone pitches in and attends to previously agreed upon deliverables.
- People understand who is responsible for certain tasks
- The fruits of the group’s labor are more obvious
- Trust increases among members of the team
- Task assignments are completed efficiently
5) Adjourning Stage
At some point, groups will eventually adjourn. While not always the case, there is usually a formal understanding that the team’s work is done.
- Group reviews accomplished goals
- Reflection time is often built in to identify wrap up activities as part of winding the group down
- A final report may be created for dissemination to organizational leaders or employee groups
Bringing It All Together
In the field of organizational psychology, it’s important to know about the five stages of groups because the insight can help a leader better understand team dynamics.
The hard truth is that groups often have difficulty getting along, particularly during the initial stage (forming). But after time, the friction begins to dissipate.
Exercising patience can go a long way in helping the team organically progress.