The Four Phases of a Team: Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing

Whether you’re a serial reality TV addict or you avoid trash TV like the plague, you’ll probably have noticed that I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here has been and gone as part of the standard annual pre-Christmas line up.

I must admit that although I am usually a bit of a naysayer when it comes to this sort of TV programme I do find I’m a celebrity addictive. This isn’t just guilty pleasure viewing though – I actually enjoy watching the programme because I get to witness one of the most basic principles of team work play out on screen. (I know… sad case.)

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

Back when I was studying to be an accountant, I really enjoyed the ‘Business Strategies’ side of study. It was a big departure from the ‘number crunching’ stereotype we all expect of accountants, and instead covered theories and management principles, some of which having more to do with psychology than business finance. One of these principles that particularly piqued my interest was forming, storming, norming and performing.

Fast forward to Today, when I was in a meeting with a client of mine in the Veterinary Industry. We were discussing the trials and stresses of managing a team that has experienced a lot of change recently. Cue forming, storming, norming and performing.  I think this principle really clicked with my client’s experience, and I’m hoping it’ll help you too when it comes to dealing with the trials of team management.

PHASE ONE: FORMING

This is the first step of all teams, whether the team is completely new, or an existing team has grown by one member. It can even occur when someone leaves a team and simply isn’t replaced.  In this first stage, the team are civil and often excited to be placed together.  There is a polite exploration of what each member of the team can do and how everyone appears to work together.

In I’m a Celeb… this is a very important thing.  Why did they delay Martin Roberts and Danny Baker entering the jungle? Because adding them to the team later meant interrupting the team development phases of those who started on day one.  Why do they split the camp up into teams? and why do they evict people one at a time?  It is because each change starts the process again and shakes things up…

PHASE TWO: STORMING

The second stage of team development is the one that can, if not managed well, be the breaking of a team or business.  Once a team has made their initial impressions of how they work together and how they complement each other it is time to test the waters.  More often than not the civil assumptions and polite natured talk is very different to the realities of working together.  Increased work load, time pressure, lack of technical ability or simply getting to know the ropes causes tensions amongst the team.  Team members can become annoyed, rebellious and team work can breakdown.

In the jungle producers want the celebrities to be suspended in the Storming phase for as long as possible because headlines get juicer and viewership increases when the group are ridden with angst! Adding a conflicting personality with different attitudes to the group can cause what was once a harmonious group to splinter. Martin is an excellent example of this. Some will use their position to encourage the newcomer into the fold, and others will feel the need to discipline the newcomer so that they know what is expected of them. 

To a team leader or business owner this is the scariest time.  Some businesses struggle to get out of this phase because the team changes and resets to the Forming stage so often. Some buckle under the pressure but some succeed and come out the other side into:

PHASE THREE: NORMING

Making friends, kissing and making up, whatever you want to call it. This is the stage where the team get over it and finally learn how to work together.  Sometimes the team will do this themselves but it usually takes a combination of leaders and members to encourage all to make peace and learn how to accept each other’s differences and strengths

At the end of week 2 In The Jungle, with no people joining or leaving for a while, you can see how the group have started to accept each other and learn how to cope as a team.  The friction (in most cases) has reduced.  That is prime time to begin evicting people, which effectively resets the team to the forming phase.

For your team this is the point where you start to see the leaders emerge and the team attitude becomes more respectful. They start not only doing their own “job” but also knowing how to help the others around them.

PHASE FOUR: PERFORMING

The holy grail of team management!  The point at which the team can carry out a task and there is almost no need to communicate to each other what is happening and what they are doing.  They just know!  The team becomes more of an organic creature than a group of individuals.

On the TV programme these moments are rare but powerful.  You’ll see this phase when the team are put into a difficult situation – mostly notably when they are working together to achieve the most time possible for each other’s individual calls to home.

In my team this phase is most obvious at this time of year, with the December and January deadlines making our office the busiest it has been all year. The pressure of the deadlines and the complexity of the work always brings out the performing phase in the team.  By the time the 31st January arrives the people I work with have become a well-oiled single unit that can achieve so much more than they themselves would have anticipated just 6 months before.

Being able to help businesses requires so much more than just knowing how to read a balance sheet! It is with these not-so-number-orientated bits of knowledge that we are able to help our clients grow and achieve success.

If you would like to know more about how we can help, please give us a call on 01474 853856 or complete our Contact Form and one of us will give you a call back.

 

This blog post was written by Josh Curties. Read more articles by Josh:

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