Most team development experts agree that teams will go through five different stages. How quickly 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 considered the four main stages of team development in order: formation, assault, normative, and performance. Later, when self-managed teams became common in business, he added a fifth stage of Closure / Transformation. Thomas Quick called the five stages of teams: search, definition, identification, processing and assimilation / reform. Whatever term is used for stages, teams will go through all five during their development and work processes.
Level 1 – The first stage is when the team is formed and the members meet. They learn what the team’s opportunities and challenges 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. Initially, the team leader may be a group member, supervisor, manager, or consultant who will facilitate the team-building process. Leadership will help the team define its processes. At this stage, the leader must be directive and understand the requirements for team training to progress 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 problems and compete for influence. Low trust among team members is an obvious indicator of this stage. The team must select the desired leadership style and decision methodology. The team leader can help by emphasizing tolerance and patience among members. The leader should guide the team process toward 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 the group’s 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 evident. Team relationships grow and individual characteristics are understood and used appropriately. The team leader continues to encourage participation and professionalism among team members.
Stage 4 – The fourth stage shows high levels of loyalty, participation, motivation and group decision making. Increase knowledge sharing, cross training and interdependence. The team is self-directed in developing plans and strategies to meet its goals and get the job done. Personal growth and sharing are encouraged throughout the membership. The leader becomes a facilitator who helps the team in communication processes and helps if they return to an earlier stage.
Stage 5 – For project teams, temporary committees, or working groups that come to an end, there will be a completion stage as they celebrate and recognize the group’s accomplishments. Then a little mourning the dissolution of the team relationship and start planning for the change in individual job requirements. During this stage, leadership should emphasize the gratitude of the organization and recognition of both the team and the individual. For continuous work teams, there may be a higher level of performance as they develop and transform as individuals and reform into revised teams. It is important to note that continuous work teams can go back to previous stages when new people are added to the team.
It takes time and effort to move through the various stages of team development. Each team will go through all 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 do, and the leadership of the team during each stage.