Tuckman’s stages of group development are:
- Forming: the team is formed and team members interact on a very formal basis. They avoid conflict and are exploring each other’s personality from a far distance.
- Storming: the natural working styles of the team members clash and the first conflicts arise. This is the stage where people try to take important positions in the team and where the existing authority is questioned.
- Norming: Emotions settle down and every individual personality takes its place in the team, differences are resolved and the team members’ individual strengths are starting to compliment each other.
- Performing: This is the stage you’d want your team to be in. Performance is at its peak and the team is collectively, efficiently and effectively working towards a common goal.
- Adjourning: The team is disbanded … celebrate its success and achievements !
Tuckman stated that any group or team needs to evolve through these stages in the fixed sequence forming — storming — norming — performing, until the team ceases to exist or is disbanded. The maturity of the team is one of the factors that will determine the speed of evolving through these different stages.
Not all teams are able to reach the norming or performing stages without external help (eg. coaching).
One of the goals of any manager or team leader is to make sure that the team evolves as fast as possible to the performing stage. This is the stage were optimal value is generated after every sprint and where issues are resolved in the most efficient way.
In case of scrum (or any other agile method) the method itself facilitates a fast evolution to the desired performing stage.
In the forming stage, the team will evolve faster if the team goal is clearly expressed and if the roles of both the team and every individual are clearly defined.
Scrum facilitates a fast transition to the second stage by the clear expression of sprint goals and collective commitments regarding estimates and objectives. The split of the traditional project manager role into the scrum master role and the product owner role facilitates the clear definition of individual roles. The team knows who is responsible for what and avoids confusion by the ambiguous dual-role of a traditional project manager, who acted both as a manager and as a(n) (internal) client.
In the storming stage, the importance of good relationships and a positive attitude and well-being are important too avoid or minimize conflicts. Scrum takes care of this by protecting the individual via ego-safe techniques like planning poker and estimation in relative story points as opposed to absolute time.
This is the stage in which the leader or manager steps back, and the coach steps in. The coach needs to help the team achieve it’s goal in a way that the team is motivated to find solutions by themselves. Giving the team responsibility and freedom to achieve its goal, together with the help of the coach, will smoothen the transition to the performing stage.
This is the stage in which the so-desired self-organizing team takes form and that the team commitments expressed during the sprint planning meeting are actually achieved by the team, and as a team, not as a group of individuals.
The team is performing at it’s maximum and goals are achieved at the best possible efficiency. The team takes collective ownership and all signs of blaming and accusing are gone.
At this stage, changes to the team might not result in a ‘reset’ back to the first stage, but at the same time it should be clear that some teams might as well never reach this stage.
This is the stage in which the team becomes a true Scrum Team.
Changing the team
Making changes to the team might reset the team back to the initial stage. Only a mature, performing team will remain unaffected by a change.
The following graph shows the evolution of performance/effectiveness throughout the 4 stages:
As you can see the performance drops during the storming stage, so this is obviously the stage that you want to keep as short as possible.
The forming stage has a relatively high effectiveness because the team consists of performing individuals. After the storming, the team evolves into a performing team via the norming stage.
You want to avoid any changes to the team during the norming stage, as this will result in the highest performance loss and will reset the team back to the forming stage, and as a result will push the team through the storming stage again.
Think twice about if and when you want to change a scrum team, as the performance hit might be significant.