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The Essentials of Team Development

The Essentials of Team Development
21 December 2012 John Moore

Successful and effective businesses have successful and effective teams working within them.

The question is ‘How does a team become successful, effective and productive rather than remain disjointed, ineffective and unproductive?’

Whether a team is a team of people working together on a temporary basis, is newly formed, or has been established for a while it is important to understand the stages it will go through from being a team of strangers to becoming a united team with a common goal.

Teams that perform exceptionally well go through five different stages; the first four stages of which were first developed by Bruce Wayne Tuckman and published in 1965. His theory, “Tuckman’s Stages”, allows us to understand that these stages are inevitable in order for a team to grow to the point where they are functioning effectively together and delivering high quality results. In 1977, Tuckman, jointly with Mary Ann Jensen, added a fifth stage.

The five stages of team development are:

  • Stage 1: Forming
  • Stage 2: Storming
  • Stage 3: Norming
  • Stage 4: Performing
  • Stage 5: Adjourning

People come together to form the team. They are generally polite and positive, although some team members may be anxious and unsure of what is expected of them. Once the team has formed, members discuss and define the task, objectives, structure and ways of working together.

The storming stage is characterised by intra-team conflict: there will inevitably be some uncertainty and anxiety within the team. Team members will typically try out their ideas and ‘test the waters’ to find out what is acceptable behaviour and begin to think of themselves as members of a team. There may well be issues over leadership and other roles, and a degree of resistance to some ideas and plans. It is during this phase that the team starts to agree on its informal structure.

During the norming stage, most conflict is settled, cooperation develops, views are exchanged and new standards or norms are established. Norms are standards that are acceptable to and shared by the team. During this stage the team develops a strong sense of team identity and camaraderie.

Performing sees the team’s energy shifting from getting to know each other to performing the task in hand. This is the final stage for permanent teams, however temporary teams such as project teams, committees or special task forces will move into the fifth stage, adjourning.

During the adjourning stage the team is moving on or even disbanding so it is the time to celebrate the successes and capture best practices for future use, to evaluate what happened and capture lessons learned for future projects. This stage also provides the team the opportunity to say good-bye to each other and wish each other luck as they pursue their next endeavour.

Has the team been effective?

There are various indicators of whether a team is working effectively together as a team. The characteristics of effective, successful teams include:

  • Clear communication among all members
  • Regular brainstorming session with all members participating
  • Consensus among team members
  • Problem solving done by the team
  • Commitment to the project and the other team members
  • Regular team meetings are effective and inclusive
  • Timely hand off from team members to others to ensure the project keeps moving in the right direction
  • Positive, supportive working relationships among all team members

Teams that are not working effectively together will display the characteristics listed below. The team leader will need to be actively involved with such teams. The sooner the team leader addresses issues and helps the team move to a more effective way of working together, the more likely the project is to end successfully.

  • Lack of communication among team members
  • No clear roles and responsibilities for team members
  • Team members “throw work over the wall” to other team members, with lack of concern for timelines or work quality
  • Team members work alone, rarely sharing information and offering assistance
  • Team members blame others for what goes wrong, no one accepts responsibility
  • Team members do not support others on the team
  • Team members are frequently absent thereby causing slippage in the timeline and additional work for their team members


It is important to remember that every team – regardless of what the team is working on – will follow these stages of team development. It is the job of the team leader to help see the team through these stages; to bring them to the point where they are working as effectively as possible toward a common goal.

John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.


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