Project Management: Stages of team development

Posted: February 6, 2011 in Project Management
Tags: , ,

Ever wondered if there is a structured approach to how new team members bond, fight and perform on projects? Well the cold truth is every project or temporary engagement – with a definite start and end date-  you lead as a team leader or a project manager introduces a new environment; a situation where team members are driven outside their comfort zone , even if some members are familiar with each other’s work.

Every new situation (project) imposes a new set of game rules at the beginning until the rough edges are smoothed out and every member gets a better understanding or acknowledgement of their size, function, responsibility and role on the team. So, without further ado,  we introduce the well known concept of ‘stages of team development’.

Assumptions underlying this model:

  • Every group will go through some part of each stage; the more the group members. know each other and have worked together before, the less time spent in the first three stages.
  • Each stage is critical to the team’s development as a high performing team—without the first three stages there may not be highperformance
  • Teambuilding, ground rules, charge clarification, task understanding, and gaining of member commitment is key to stage one.
  • The stages often play out simultaneously or in different order.

Teams go through different performance cycles throughout the project – each of these cycles requires a different leadership style. These stages are classified into 4 groups; Forming: Initial judgments about teammates are made, Storming: Control issues emerge, Norming: Productive works begins, Performing: Optimum productivity reached. Using Project Management Institute’s terms, there is one last ‘stage’ called Adjourning: Project is done, team moves out of the project

Stage One: Forming (Awareness): The Immature Group

  1. Theme:  orientation
  2. Behaviors desired:  commitment to group goals as task behavior, friendliness and concern about others and interest in relationship with others
  3. Outcomes desired:  commitment and acceptance of team and of others
  4. Actions and activities:  learning what’s expected
  5. Leader’s role:  high-task, low-relationship to compensate for low follower readiness
  6. Leaderships skills and techniques:  value clarification, visioning, communication through myth and metaphor, and goal setting to develop acceptance and commitment as individuals need to understand how they relate to team and team’s relationship to organization
  7. Task of individual:  getting acquainted, assessing strengths and weaknesses, participating in goal setting

Stage Two:  Storming (Conflict):  The Fractionated Group

  1. Theme:  resistance
  2. Behaviors desired:  acknowledgment and confrontation of conflict openly at task level and listening with understanding to others at relationship level
  3. Outcomes desired:  clarification and belonging
  4. Actions and activities:  leadership struggles, incomplete communication, arguments and personalizing events; members appear confused and dissatisfied and output is low
  5. Leader’s role:  maintaining adequate production while building group competence requires high-task, high relationship
  6. Leadership skills and techniques:  active listening, assertiveness and conflict management to resolve stage two issues, and flexibility and creativity to support open environment and set climate for new ideas
  7. Task of individual:  listening actively and attentively to all viewpoints, supporting the development of and encouraging supportive environment for expression of ideas, confronting and managing disagreements to clarify purposes, roles and procedures

Stage Three:  Norming (Cooperation):  The Sharing Group

  1. Theme:  cohesion
  2. Behavior desired:  inclusion of others in decision making to meet task needs, recognition and respect of differences to meet relationship needs
  3. Outcomes desired:  involvement and support
  4. Actions and activities:  open exchange of feelings, facts, ideas, preferences and support; less dissatisfaction as ways of working together are clarified
  5. Leader’s role:  low-task, high relationship to promote participation and involvement, providing more opportunities for group members to take responsibility
  6. Leadership skills and techniques:  use of the techniques of playfulness and humor, entrepreneurship and coalition building (networking) promote involvement and support communication, feedback and affirmation
  7. Task of individual:  appreciation of differences, recognition of group success as source of personal power and resources, use of feedback to support collaborative working relationships, greater involvement in decision-making

Stage Four:  Performing (Productivity):  The Effective Team

  1. Theme:  interdependence
  2. Behaviors: contribution and valuing of new ideas and the ideas of others
  3. Outcomes:  achievement and pride
  4. Actions and activities:  working collaboratively to challenge their potential; celebrating success in the achievement of more complex goals helps sustain enthusiasm and maintain momentum
  5. Leader’s role:  delegation reduces need for interaction with staff to low-task, low relationship
  6. Leadership skills and techniques:  problem solving, planning, and decision making skills provide opportunities for achievement; mentoring helps to foster achievement in others
  7. Task of individual:  sharing in group accomplishments and productivity lead to sense of satisfaction and pride

Enhancing team performance can result from various activities. Examples include:

  • Involving team members in the planning process
  • Establishing rules for dealing with conflict
  • Improving the climate for team discussions
  • Improving stakeholders interactions by holding off-site facilitated events …

Hope you enjoyed this quick snapshot. To learn more please connect with us or subscribe to our blog.

Joe Zaarour, PMP


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