Understanding Project Team Development

Understanding how team functions and what makes teams more effectively can be meaningful in the classroom and in the work environment. Studies show that every team goes through five main stages of development. The first stage deals primarily with the background of the team development and the remaining four stages of team development was developed by Dr. Bruce Tucker in 1965. Dr. Tucker’s theory of team development is famously known as “Tuckman’s Stages”. According to him, these stages are inevitable in order for a team to grow to the point where they can function effectively together delivering high-quality results.

The five stages of team development are:

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1. Forming: This is when the team first meet each other. At this first meeting, the team members are officially introduced to each other by the project leader/manager and get the opportunity to share their backgrounds, interests, and experience and form first impressions of each other. Usually, most of the team members are positive and polite while some are anxious as they have not fully understood what work the team will do. Hence, this initial stage also gives them the opportunity to learn about the project and discuss the project’s goals and objectives and the role each team member is going to play. This stage may last for some time to enable members to get accustomed to each other. It is at the forming stage that the project leader/manager clearly define the project’s goals and the directive tailored to achieve them.

2. Storming: This is the stage where the team members start to compete with each other for status and acceptance of ideas. At this stage, people easily get frustrated as the members of the team may have different opinions and work differently. It is at this stage that the project leader/manager has to provide guidance and lead the team to tolerate each other and learn how to solve problem and function together as a team. The team manager has to have the required soft skills to guide his team through this stage. This stage successfully comes to an end when the team becomes cooperative and more accepting of each other.

3. Norming: This is the stage where team members are more collaborating and working effectively as a team. They learn to respect and value each other’s views and opinions and are able to ask each other for help and also, provide constructive meaningful feedbacks. At this stage, the project leader/manager is not involved in decision making and problem solving since the team is working together and taking more responsibilities. Team members develop stronger commitment towards the project goals and take prudence steps to achieve them. At this stage, the project manager/leader is seen as a coach occasionally ensuring that the team is cooperating and on track.

4. Performing: This is the stage where the team is functioning at a very high level as expected without any friction or whatsoever. This stage is usually supported by structures and processes outlined by the project leader/manager. When disagreements erupt, the teamwork through and resolve them without interrupting the project’s progress. Mostly, the project leader/manager serves as the main channel of communication when certain decisions need to be reached a higher level within the organization.

5. Adjourning: This is the stage when the project is coming to a close and team members are separating into the different direction. It is the stage where team members may be disbanded through organizational restructuring. The project leader/manager have to ensure that there is time for the team to celebrate their success and document all lessons-learned for future use.
It is important to note that every team, irrespective of what they are working on, will follow this stages of development. It is the duty of the project leader/manager to provide the necessary assistance and guidance through these stages to ensure that the project’s goals and objectives are met.

Let the team work.

• The Team Handbook, 3rd Edition (Scholtes, Joiner, Streibel), Publisher: Oriel

Read more on Project Management:

Project Quality Management

Best Practices in Project Planning


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