Performing From Day 1: How To Accelerate Team Development

Manager accelerates her team development to the performing stage

Yesterday, we balanced home-working with office presence, trying to find free slots in each others' calendars for Skype calls with face-to-face meetings. Today, video meetings have become the default and no one can travel.

As this becomes the new normal, it is an opportune time to set standards amongst your teams that everyone can meet. Soon, new team members will join that no one may have met face-to-face. What are you going to do then?

Four Stages of Team Development

Co-workers meet to reach the performing stage of team development


First, some background.

In 1965, Bruce Tukman created a model for the stages of team development that reflects human behaviour and called it forming-storming-norming-performing:

Forming- where team members suss each other out and can be slightly guarded and suspicious of each other, while outwardly the group appears harmonious.

Storming - where conflict can arise as disagreements about the approach come to the surface.

Norming - where the team settles into an agreed work pattern and roles and responsibilities are clarified.

Performing - where the team is working at its full potential and delivering the intended results.

The challenge here is that the team may only arrive at the "performing" stage towards the end of the piece of work, sometimes never. This article explains how to get to the performing stage, ideally on the first day that the team is assembled.

How To Get Your Teams To The "Performing" Stage

This is achieved via a "norming" meeting. The team should take a whole day and, ideally, have the meeting facilitated by a person who is not in the team. The facilitator will lead the team through all the roles and responsibilities.

And this is where the team can eliminate the first area of frustration. Major issues arise when the team assumes that one person will take care of a particular work item. For example, accountants are often asked to do anything that involves a spreadsheet. If they are on the team, perhaps they wanted to learn something else. Another team member may be very keen to pick up this work.

So, in addition to the work tasks, all the other activities related to the functioning of the team need to be divided out and assigned.

The second area of frustration concerns the "norms." When are team meetings to be held? What is the format? Who is taking notes? Do team members have personal requirements that the rest of the team can support? Clarifying all these questions can take care of issues before they start to create frustration and enables the team to jump through all the stages of team development in one go.

The objective is for the team to function at its full potential on the day it is assembled and for each member to enjoy the journey and take a step forward in their career. And the norming sessions themselves can be fun, too.

Teams face many challenges on their journey in order to deliver on their commitments. Taking the time to raise awareness of the stages of team development and to talk through roles and responsibilities without making assumptions ensures teams move through those stages more rapidly, leading to more effective performance earlier and greater job satisfaction for those involved.

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