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What are the Stages of Group Development?
American organizational psychologist Bruce Tuckman proposed a four-stage map of group evolution, known as the Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing Model (1965). These stages include:
- Forming – The forming stage is when members of the group initially come together. The individuals begin to get to known one another and establish the nature and terms of interaction. The members may already know each other or they may a level of uncertainty. This generally results in increased formality, anxiety, and guardedness. At the same time, the members may be excited and optimistic about being a part of the group – depending on the group objective and how it formed. The members generally begin by searching for some form of commonality in understanding, belief, values, or objective. Then they begin to identify barriers or boundaries for interaction. The individuals begin to determine the individual responsibilities for tasks. Leaders often begin to emerge at this stage. The stage tends to be somewhat brief in nature.
- Storming – The storming phase begins after groups establish to feel a sense of comfort and inclusion. Individuals abandon their receive and formality. That is, they begin to exhibit their true personalities. They begin to explore group status through influence and power, self-differentiation. This allows them to establish demonstrate their abilities or interests by establishing their personality and areas over which they seek to exercise control or influence. This generally means that they become more argumentative and demonstrate where they truly stand on positions. This generally results in conflicting points of view, values, and preferences for task accomplishment. Individuals, depending on personality type, may become defensive, competitive, or resentful. Coalitions may form between individuals with salient commonalities. It is not uncommon for leadership hierarchies to re-form or establish themselves, as individuals begin to challenge the directions or decisions of those initially taking charge. The major benefit of this stage is that it allows individuals to be authentic and express their true opinions. This can be an effective environment for the presentation of diverse ideas and creativity. Once the individuals present their authentic selves and come to the belief that they can effectively interact given the differences, they are then able to move on to the norming stage. Unfortunately, many groups will get stuck in this stage (unable to arrive at the belief in their common abilities) – which detriments the ability for task accomplishment.
- Norming – Groups that making to the norming stage are more comfortable in themselves and the ability of the group to address the situation or task at hand. This leads to the development of a sense of belong, loyalty, and commitment to the group’s goals. The tension common during the storming stage subsides. The members tend to become less assertive and more cooperative. They show respect to other members and are more willing to seek input, help, and feedback on their decisions. It may even give rise to personal connections or friendships. This allows for the creation of rules of common understanding or “Norms” for how the group will operate. Individuals begin to assume specific roles or assume decision-making authority for specific matters. While individuals make smaller decisions, the group develops a process for making more important decisions. Leaders begin to assume less of an authoritative or decision-making role. Instead, they become more of a facilitator. At this point, the group is ready to perform.
- Performing – Armed with a shared vision and a sense of unity, the group is ready to effectively deal with the situation or task at hand. Individuals work together interdependently. Differences of opinion are treated respectfully, individual tasks are accomplished, and progress is made on group objectives. In addition to high levels of productivity, there is general mindfulness about the tasks and processes. They question established procedures and look for ways to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. They often look for higher-level processes for enhancing communication, addressing conflicts, fostering relationships, improving individual effectiveness, and enhancing group dynamics. The group is, in effect, maturing into a competent and autonomous organization. Leaders step back from directing and facilitating. They begin more coaching, training, and motivating group members.
- Adjourning – Tuckman enhanced the model by later adding a fifth and final stage – adjourning. This is the process of dissembling once the goal has been addressed – such as the task being completed or the relevant situation has subsided. Different types of groups may dissolve for any number of reasons – task completion, situational changes, goal restructuring. It is common for adjourning to be an emotional experience. Members may feel a sense of accomplishment, sadness, or insecurity about what is to come. This requires leaders and other group members to be sensitive, respectful, and compassionate. Organizational leaders generally adjourn a group by holding a debrief, celebrate accomplishments, and acknowledge individuals.
As you can determine, to facilitate a group successfully, the leader needs to move through various leadership styles over time. Generally, this is accomplished by first being more direct, eventually serving as a coach, and later, once the group is able to assume more power and responsibility for itself, shifting to delegator.