Understanding Your Team’s Evolution

"The Model of Group Development published by Bruce Tuckman in 1965 theorizes that research teams and other groups form and develop in critical stages to achieve their highest potential (Tuckman 1965, Tuckman and Jensen, 1977).  Over 50 years later, Tuckman’s model is still cited and used within leadership courses and by organizational development experts. You may find it extremely helpful to note these stages, which include the four originally described by Tuckman and a fifth he added years later as your team evolves.

  • Forming:  The team is established using either a top-down or bottom -up approach.
  • Storming: Team members establish roles and responsibilities.  This process may trigger disagreements or “turf battles” and reveal a reluctance to appreciate the perspectives and contributions of people from different disciplines or training.  However, if collegial disagreement is supported and premature pressure to consensus is resisted, people will begin to open up to one another.
  • Norming: Team members begin to work together effectively and efficiently, start to develop trust and comfort with one another, and learn they can rely on each other.
  • Performing:  The team works together seamlessly, focuses on the shared goal, and efficiently resolves issues or problems that emerge.
  • Adjourning or Transforming:  Two things can happen when a team accomplishes is initial goal(s):
    1. Teams may come to a natural end.  The team’s dissolution should be celebrated and the accomplishments recognized and rewarded.
    2. The team may take on a new project with a new goal, applying its ability to work together to solve a new problem. “

Quoted from page 46 in Bennett, L. M., Gadlin, H., Marchand, C. (2018). Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide. 2nd edn., National Institutes of Health Publication No. 18-7660, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, United States of America.

Tuckman, B. W. (1965) Developmental sequence in small groups.  Psychological Bulletin. 63: 384 - 399.
Tuckman, B. W., and Jensen, M. A. C. (1977)  Stages of small-group development revisited. Group & Organization Studies. 2(4) 419 - 427.