Mature Teams

Deliver Performance

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Simple is effective

Problems might seem complex, but real solutions are always simple. Everything else is just a temporary fix.
I often compare team development to teaching my kids to ride a bike. At the start I held on tight to both them and the bike, then as their confidence and experience grew, I let go of them and later their bike. I ran behind them with my arms either side in case they fell and finally, I followed them on my own bike, just in case they needed my help. Bruce Tuckman's theory from 1965

Every team has the potential to perform...

Bruce Tuckman's theory from 1965 refers to four distinct team development phases, all of which are essential and can therefore not be leap-frogged.
It is powerfuly simple and has been pivitol in my career for 20 years now. Applying this knowledge accelerates team development and has helped me to deliver some incredibly challenging projects.

...but not every team will manage to reach that stage

He explains that the team leader is responsible to guide their team through each phase and change their approach in accordance with the team's requirements.
In Tuckman's Forming Phase describes a fresh team of individuals who keep their heads down, observe each other and need clear obejectives from above to be productive.
Moving into the Storming Phase, the team will begin to air their differences and, depending on the chemistry, may even start to argue heavily.
As crazy as it sounds, teams who avoid discusions at all cost are usually the least effective groups in business. They often claim to be a great team, but you will find they speak differently behind each others' back than to their face. The storming phase is a challenge for all parties, and the team is heavily dependent on a leader who can steer them constructively thorough this storm.
Of course, the reason why so many teams avoid arguing is because they compare it to lifting the lid on Pandora's box. That's why the team leader must ensure the storming phase is structured and cosntructive. There may be heated debates and they will need to put a lot of time aside for 1:1 converstaions and inter-persoanl development. Most importantly of all, they will need to make sure the team leaves the storming phase behind them, simply by ensuring rules of interaction and team values get agreed upon and are adapted.
These rules will form the foundation of a true-performance team who can discuss anything, so long as they adhere to their own rules.

If this all sounds very theoretical

Then you are quite right. Even in some of the most project driven environments such as automobile development, Tuckman's theory will never happen as he describes it. Team members will come and go throughout the project, targets will cahnge and external influences will have a significant effect on progress.
The point is Tuckman's theory describes what happens every day on a macro and micro scale within a team. With every new team member, the mature team to some extent return to the forming phase. Every unexpected failure can lead to a new storming debate and so on.
If you are aware of this theory, you will recognise what your team is going through and you will know how to react.

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The 4 Phases of Team Development

Bruce Tuckman's model has stood the test of time. Apply his theory according to your own real-world environment to accelerate team development.

See these articles for tips on accelerating progress.