The Five Stages of Team Development

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Bruna Vasconcelos
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Bruna Vasconcelos
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Head of People
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Learn about the five stages of team development and leadership strategies to support your team's success.
Published on
September 20, 2023
Updated on
April 17, 2024

High-performing teams rarely happen by accident, and their formation is much more challenging in today’s remote and hybrid work environment. You can increase your odds of success, though, by understanding the different stages of team development and how to help teams work together collaboratively.

Even the most talented individuals generally need to work in teams to produce exceptional results. Teams take time to develop, moving through stages of team development to reach optimal output. Psychological researcher, Bruce Tuckman, formalized the concept of team development stages in the 1960s. 

The five stages of team development include:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performance
  5. Adjourning

In this article, we’ll look at each stage of Tuckman team development, including how leadership roles evolve throughout team life cycles.

Stage 1: Forming

In the first stage, the team lacks structure and is not yet a cohesive unit. In this initial stage of assembling, team members look to a group leader to provide direction and guidance. 

Typical Feelings & Behaviors

When teams are initially formed, there is often a sense of excitement or anticipation. New team members may be eager to start work, although some may also feel anxiety about fitting into the team and whether they are up to the task.

At this stage, team members also often ask lots of questions. This can be indicative of their engagement with the project or their uncertainty about their role.

Team Tasks to Complete

A key task is establishing the team’s structure, directions, and expectations. This helps ease any anxiety and provides clear direction for team members. During this stage, the focus is on uniting the group behind common goals. In the forming stage, task accomplishment is secondary to establishing goals.

Examples of specific tasks include:

  • Holding a kickoff team meeting to introduce members
  • Establishing team goals and vision
  • Providing an overview of projects and desired outcomes
  • Developing the process for communication and collaboration

Leadership Needed

Leadership needs to focus on creating the framework for the group and the deliverable. There also needs to be an emphasis on forming relationships within the team. 

In the forming stage, team members often tend to play nice. Contrary options may not be expressed. To move to the next stage, though, team members have to risk the possibility of conflict by inviting open and honest feedback.

Stage 2: Storming

In the second stage of team development, you start organizing processes to complete tasks. This is also the stage where interpersonal conflicts between group members commonly begin to occur as they try to find their roles within the organization. It’s not uncommon to see power struggles as members of the team try to establish themselves as experts or vie for leadership.

Typical Feelings & Behaviors

You may see team members get frustrated or lose interest in projects. Those who want to avoid conflict may retreat, while others may start to question why some are even in the group. Without strong leadership, this can result in confusion and tension.

Team Tasks to Complete

The focus remains on managing interpersonal relationships to identify potential conflicts and resolve them in order to start building a cohesive group. Active listening and conflict resolution skills will be important here, allowing you to establish clearly defined roles and ground rules for group behavior.

Specific tasks in the storming stage include:

  • Working through conflict and differences in opinion
  • Establishing processes for decision-making
  • Developing mechanisms for giving and receiving feedback

Leadership Needed

Leaders may need to acknowledge the conflict and guide the group in conflict resolution. The goal is to arrive at a consensus among team members and begin to move responsibility for meeting goals from leadership to team members.

Team members must move from testing/proving behavior to a commitment to problem-solving to move forward.

Stage 3: Norming

In the norming stage, teams begin to find ways to work together better. As cohesion develops, leadership commonly moves from a single person to a shared leadership model. 

Typical Feelings & Behaviors

Team members agree more often on processes and procedures. They set milestones and start to achieve them — providing them with a sense of belonging. As team members learn to offer criticism or conflicting opinion more constructively, tensions and conflicts give way to group problem-solving. Team members feel more confident and free to express ideas and contribute without fear of conflict.

Team Tasks to Complete

One key aspect of the norming stage is developing a decision-making process where roles and responsibilities are shared. Team members must commit to solving a problem or completing tasks. Depending on the project, there often needs to be measurements in place to validate goal completion.

Tasks in the norming stage include:

  • Building team trust and cohesion 
  • Establishing norms, processes, and roles
  • Developing tracking mechanisms

Leadership Needed

At this point, shared leadership is developing. This allows team leaders to require less structure and move from guidance to support as they help the team grow. While continuing to build strong relationships, leaders are fostering team interaction, getting contributions from all team members, and encouraging others to make decisions.

In the norming stage, there is generally a high level of productivity, but teams can often get stuck. While they may complete tasks, they may also start to lose momentum or motivation to achieve the overarching goals. Prior to the next stage, the focus must be clearly on end goal completion.

Stage 4: Performing

Teams that reach the fourth stage have high productivity and are considered high-performing. They feel personally and professionally rewarded and can make significant contributions to organizations.

Typical Feelings & Behaviors

Teams develop independence with clear roles and self-organization. Tight bonds start to emerge, and members develop empathy for others as they build a strong, collaborative work ethic. There is a general sense of satisfaction.

Team Tasks to Complete

As teams make substantive progress toward goals, it is important to acknowledge milestones and celebrate success. Team members also need to continue to expand their knowledge and skills, enhancing projects and creating new development opportunities.

In the performing stage, tasks include:

  • Focusing energy on team objectives and goals
  • Providing ongoing feedback and coaching
  • Executing action plans
  • Celebrating achievements

Leadership Needed

In this development stage, leaders must focus on observing and fulfilling team needs, providing teams with the fuel they need to perform. Feedback and positive reinforcement are essential, along with an emphasis on shared leadership.

Once groups reach the performing stage, they can work more independently, with occasional guidance rather than constant participation by leadership.

Stage 5: Adjourning

The adjourning stage occurs when the group is no longer needed to meet goals. While team members may take on new tasks or join new groups, the termination of the group produces a significant transition.

Typical Feelings & Behaviors

High-performing teams have formed tight bonds, and there is often a sense of sadness. Some team members may feel relief, though, happy that the task has been completed and proud of what has been accomplished.

As teams start to wind down, there may be a drop in production due to these emotions. Some team members may stop engaging.

Team Tasks to Complete

Tasks at this stage include recognizing and rewarding team efforts, tying up any loose ends or remaining tasks, and evaluating the team's efforts. Teams need this final review to ensure all goals have been accomplished and the project has concluded.

In the final stage, tasks are focused on:

  • Documentation of group achievements and learnings
  • Transferring knowledge and resources outside the group
  • Wrapping up activities

Leadership Needed

Leadership needs to reflect on accomplishments, thank participants, and highlight the lessons learned that can be applied to future projects. 

The Benefits of High-Performing Teams

When organizations develop high-performing teams, the magic starts to happen. Team members develop a strong team culture and create efficient workflows. 

Other benefits include:

  • Clear communication and collaboration
  • Independent problem-solving
  • Diversity of thought and constructive feedback
  • Professional development
  • Creation of a shared vision
  • Alignment with core values

Even after teams leave the adjournment stage, these benefits remain. With a sense of accomplishment following an important contribution, team members are more confident in their abilities and more engaged in their work. 

When teams move through all five stages of team development, the long-term benefits often extend far beyond the problem they solved initially.

Build Your Development Team With Revelo

By applying the right structure and actively managing through Tuckman’s stages of team development, organizations are better equipped to develop high-performing teams. Like any team, however, you need the right mix of players to achieve success. That’s no easy task in today’s job market, where there is a significant talent shortage — especially when it comes to software development teams.

Fortunately, Revelo can help you build a top-tier development team. 

Revolo matches companies with talent, connecting you with developers rigorously vetted for soft and technical skills. We will find the talent you need for full-time hires and help handle the onboarding, including payroll, benefits administration, taxes, and local compliance. We also offer support throughout the developer’s time with your company to ensure they remain engaged.

Contact us to find your next developer to join your high-performing team today.

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