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The Five Stages of Team Development

Shirley Lee

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Most experts in team development agree that teams will go through five different stages. How fast a team moves through each stage will depend on the team members, their individual skills, the work they are expected to do, and the type of leadership available to the team.

Bruce Tuckman deemed the four main stages of team development in order as Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. Later, as self-managed teams became common in business, he added a fifth stage of Adjourning/Transforming. Thomas Quick called the five stages for teams: Searching, Defining, Identifying, Processing, and Assimilating/Reforming. Whatever term is used for the stages, teams will go through all five during their developmental and working processes.

Stage 1 - The first stage is when the team is formed and members meet. They learn what the team opportunities and challenge will be. Individual members may be confused about their role or not understand the need for the team. Members will agree on goals and assign actions for work, often working independently. Ground rules or team guidelines are established. At the start, the team leader may be a member of the group, a supervisor, a manager, or a consultant who will facilitate the team-building process. Leadership will help the team to define their processes. At this stage, the leader needs to be directive and understand the requirements for team training to move through each stage.

Stage 2 - During the second stage, individual expression of ideas occurs and there is open conflict between members. Members tend to focus on details rather than the issues and compete for influence. Low trust among team members is an evident indicator of this stage. The team needs to select their desired leadership style and decision methodology. The team leader can help by stressing tolerance and patience between members. The leader should guide the team process towards clear goals, defined roles, acceptable team behavior, and a mutual feedback process for team communication.

Stage 3 - In the third stage, the team develops work habits that support group rules and values. They use established tools and methods; exhibit good behaviors; mutual trust, motivation, and open communication increase; positive teamwork and group focus are apparent. The team relationships grow and individual characteristics are understood and appropriately utilized. The team leader continues to encourage participation and professionalism among the team members.

Stage 4 - The fourth stage shows high levels of loyalty, participation, motivation, and group decision-making. Knowledge sharing, cross-training, and interdependence increases. Team is self-directing in development of plans and strategy to meet their goals and carry out work. Personal growth and sharing is encouraged throughout membership. The leader becomes a facilitator aiding the team in communication processes and helping if they revert to a prior stage.

Stage 5 - For project teams, temporary committees, or task forces coming to an end, there will be a finalizing stage as they . celebrate and recognize group achievement. Then some mourning over the dissolving of the team relationship and begin planning for the change in individual work requirements. During this stage, leadership needs to emphasize organization gratitude and both team and individual recognition. For continuous work teams, there may be a higher performance level as they develop and transform as individuals and reform into revised teams. It is important to note that continuous work teams may revert to prior stages when new people are added to the team.

Time and effort are required to move through the various team development stages. Every team will go through all the stages. However the timeline of each stage may be different for each team depending on the individual members and their skill levels, the work the team is expected to accomplish, and team leadership during each stage.

Shirley Fine Lee, author of “R. A!R. A! A Meeting Wizard's Approach", has worked as a training and development specialist since 1986, and an independent consultant since 2000. She has extensive experience, helping organizations with their team building, training development, meeting facilitation, presentation delivery, and other communication needs. This work involves developing productivity tools, presenting workshops, and writing. For instance, she has authored numerous training manuals and guides, on a wide variety of topics. Her programs include time management, getting organized, problem solving, and team building. Find out more about her and options she provides on her website.


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