Just like with the question “How are babies made?”, the answer to the “How teams form?” is the same: it’s a process, my dear…
To give you a better insight into how real teams form, we will use a case study.
A team has been assembled to complete a project for a certain company. However, for this project to be successful, it should be handled by a group of individuals with very specific skills. And while the company already has required personnel on board, they are scattered all over the country and haven’t worked together before, which is why a project manager has decided that the team should meet in person - even though they will be working remotely. And so the process begins.
Phase one - First meeting
Everyone’s friendly, attentive, understanding and aware of each other's skills and strengths. There is slight competition for leading positions, but nothing to be concerned about. Team building exercises are going well and the overall impression is that everyone is engaged with each other and enjoying each other’s company. Everything seems to be going well.
Phase two - Beginning of the actual work
Team members go home and start working remotely. Even though the project started off well, arguments arise all the time. There are disagreements about schedule, duties, workload, task handling… And no one knows how much progress has been made. At this point, the project manager gets involved and tries to calm the situation: she reminds everyone about ground rules, goals and objectives, and tries to resolve team conflicts that can’t be resolved on their own. However, over time things settle down, and progress is finally being made.
Phase three - Smooth sailing
Three months into the project, the project manager senses that teamwork is present, even though members work remotely. Arguments are few and trivial, and teammates are supportive of each other when it comes to problem-solving, decision-making and information sharing. Also, they help each other develop skills that can help them grow. Ultimately, they became friends that share their lives outside of work.
Phase four - Pinnacle of project progress
At this moment, this team can be called “high performing”. Effective brainstorming sessions, a profound sense of dependence between members and skill sets that weren’t developed before are now part of this team’s characteristics. The project is being delivered on time and within budget, milestones are being met, and most importantly, there is no need for the project manager to interfere: everything is running at optimum efficiency.
Phase five - The end
After eight months, the project has ended successfully. However, the team that jelled so well has to be disbanded, and all members return to their respected roles in their respected branch offices. At this point there are mixed feelings within the group: on the one hand, there is a sense of sadness that the project is over; on the other, everyone is overjoyed that they had a chance to meet and work with each other. Most likely, they will remain in contact on the personal level.
Five stages of team forming
Five phases mentioned above are actually five stages that every team in any company goes through.
Turning a group of individuals into a team will cause discontent among your employees who, until recently, were sharing nothing more than the office. At this point, it is quite common to face resistance toward change among group members.
In order for a group to become a team, there are five stages that it must go through forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. This scheme was devised by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, and it is considered the simplest and the most elegant explanation of team behavior and development.
During the Forming stage, members are usually excited and eager about the work ahead. But at the same time, they feel some anxiety and discontent because they are being forced into a different way of doing things than they are used to.
At this point, new teammates avoid expressing their views and getting into conflicts. While this cautious behavior prevents the group from getting any real work done, that is perfectly fine: the focus should be on becoming more familiar with each other and on the team’s purpose, not on work itself.
During the forming stage, you can expect a lot of questions from the members about group goal as well as cooperation with new teammates. It is up to you to answer them patiently and diligently - turning a cold shoulder at this point can prolong a creation of the team.
This is the time when conflicts and competition are at the peak; feelings shift from the sense of eagerness and excitement to feelings of frustration or anger; team members voice their concerns about the team's progress, process, goals and the ability of their colleagues. At times, it seems like everything will blow up.
At this point, questions about leadership, rules, responsibilities, structure, evaluation criteria, and reward systems are bound to arise, and they all must be answered so your team can move to the next stage. Keep in mind that the Storming phase makes or breaks the team.
During the Norming stage, team members begin to accept that their personal expectations are different than the reality. At this point, real ideas and feelings come to light, and opinions of others and constructive criticism is wholeheartedly accepted. Everyone starts to feel like a part of a team and take pleasure from the positive atmosphere within the group.
They are making a conscious effort to resolve problems and achieve group harmony. “I” is no longer the most important thing - ground rules, practices, and tasks are taking the number one spot. Therefore, this is the perfect time for team evaluation.
This is what you’ve been waiting for - you formed a competent and committed team. Members are able to solve and prevent problems; "can do" attitude is ever present, roles become more fluid, and personal differences are appreciated and used to enhance the team's performance.
However, significant changes can result in a team going back to an earlier stage. If these changes and their consequential behaviors are recognized and addressed, teams may successfully remain in the Performing stage indefinitely.
Every project will come to an end. This is called adjourning. Characterized by an emotional rollercoaster, this ending stage can go two separate ways: with the sense of loss hovering in the air, members can either lose focus or gain the momentum by coping with “grief” and focusing on the task at hand.
Perks of a formed team
The team has been formed and the time of silent individuals in your open space office is coming to an end. Reorganizing group of individuals into a jelled and functional team has increased the productivity of your company.
- By combining the efforts of many, instead of relying on an individual’s contribution, you will achieve higher efficiency.
- A large number of people focused on the same goal will result in increased process speed.
- You can coordinate team efforts by delegating roles and tasks, which - in return - will allow you to achieve greater effectiveness.
- By relying on diversity within the team, you can utilize information and knowledge that different members bring to the table. This offers an array of potential approaches which can ensure a better quality of the final product.