Teamwork Training: The Four Stages of Team Development

Posted by Brooke Baker on Feb 19, 2015 7:57:56 AM
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Great teams don’t become great teams overnight. You can’t just put a group of people in a room, declare them a team, and assume they’ll be humming right away. In fact, building a great team takes a number of things including diverse skills, accountability, a shared purpose, and something else equally important: time.

In this Teamwork Training post I’ll take you through the four stages of team development, the highs and the lows, and show that becoming a great team takes work, patience, and riding the wave. This model was first created by Bruce Tuckman in 1965 and is still relevant today. Take a look and see if you can spot where your team falls. And if it feels low, don’t be discouraged – there’s a high point coming.

1. Forming: The beginning. When teams are starting up there is a sense of excitement stemming from the possibilities ahead and working with new people; but there is also some anxiety – where is this all going? Team members are polite with one another and restrained. The discussion focuses on mission, goals, and establishing structure. There’s a positive energy about what the group plans to accomplish. Then comes the tough part: actually trying to accomplish it.

2. Storming: The low point. You’ve gotten to know the team, and you’re not sure you like it. Roles and responsibilities are negotiated and leaders may be challenged by members of their team. Miscommunication may lead to a missed assignment (“are you telling me nobody submitted the proposal before the deadline last Thursday?”), frustration, blame, and pain. You may wonder “why am I on this team?” These tensions aren’t always visible. Often times they lie right below the surface, but the effects of the stress are real and heavy. You may find yourself thinking “is this worth it?”

3. Norming: The team is moving forward. You’ve navigated the storm and things are calmer now. Team members know each other and have a real understanding of each other’s strengths and weakness. You develop routines and norms to help each other. Sometimes these are communicated, sometimes they happen organically. Josh may still send a flurry of emails first thing Monday morning, but you learn that’s because he’s an early riser and loves nothing more than a clean inbox – not because he spends all weekend  every weekend plotting how to fill your to do list before you fill your coffee mug. It may not feel comfortable, but it feels functional, and most importantly it feels like you’re getting somewhere. 

4. Performing: This is where it gets fun. The pockets of positive energy from the end of the norming stage last longer and you are feeling real progress. You care about your teammates and they care about you. Some conflicts still exist, but the difference is you are now equipped to handle them. The result is real relationships – where team members care about each other – constructive thinking, and team success. You are moving toward your goals, and you are enjoying it. This is why you joined the team.

Just as performance of the team evolves over time, so does team member morale. In fact, we can track team morale as we go through the stages. The Stages of Team Morale model below was developed by Edgework Consulting, built on the work of Katzenbach and Smith and Tuckman.


The person who  says "This is exciting!" is looking to the future, but he or she doesn't know if it is actually going to work. However, the person who knows it is working has "been there", seen the tough side of teaming and has truly worked toward a productive, meaningful teamwork relationship with another team member. They know it works. 

Teaming is a work journey, an emotional journey, and an effectiveness journey. Getting work done and working well together are two different things and both are critical for a team to become high performing. As Henry Ford said, "Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.“

What if we told you you could skip past storming and the "this is painful" sentiment, touch down on norming, and accelerate to performing? At Edgework Consulting we work on strategies to “stop the drop,” to get your team performing while navigating past the frustrations, anxiety, and missed deadlines that come during the storming stage. A little work early can have huge benefits. Could your team gain from a teamwork workshop? Contact us to learn how we can help. 

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 This is another entry in Edgework Consulting’s Teamwork Training series. Each Teamwork Training post is designed to help you get more out of yourself and the team with which you work. For more Teamwork Training posts, click here.

Topics: Teamwork