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5 Stages of Group Development: How to Master Them

Michael author profile imageMichael Chen
Jun 19, 20225 mins
What is Group Development?

Building a productive team is not just about having a group of people with the right skills. A successful team is one where members communicate and cooperate with each other to come up with innovative solutions.

As a leader, you cannot expect the team to start performing from the get-go. Fostering a strong sense of teamwork requires understanding how a group is formed and its different developmental stages.

What is Group Development?

To put it simply, group development is a dynamic process of forming a group and working together to achieve a common goal.

If you make a proactive effort to develop groups, your team members will get ample opportunities to interact and get to know each other better. It builds a foundation of trust and empowers them to share ideas and work toward innovative solutions.

Understanding the stages of group development is the key to ensuring the smooth functioning of teams.

Why is group development important?

Group development is a critical element of a successful organization. It provides a plethora of engagement opportunities so that employees know each other better and are able to build a rapport.

Moreover, as people get comfortable working together their communication improves. Open communication is the most significant factor that contributes to making better decisions and bringing innovation.

Lastly, effective group development brings about an increase in productivity, which is the main purpose of the team. 

What are the Five Stages of Group Development?

Behavioral psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with a commonly used theory to explain the different stages of group development. This model is based on the premise that groups don’t form accidentally but have a development pattern.

Every stage of development has its feelings and behaviors. If you want to understand why things are happening a certain way with your team, then you should know each stage in detail.

Stage 1: Forming

It is the initial phase where group members get oriented with the tasks. This stage is characterized by anticipation as members explore each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

At the very start, not many goals can be accomplished as team members look at individual performance rather than a group as a whole. So, the team leader should provide more clarity on the goals and mission of the team.

You should also lay out the expectations and the ground rules that all members should follow.

Stage 2: Storming

Once the group members are acquainted with each other, the team leader assigns roles to each member

This stage witnesses conflicts as the team members are given a hierarchy. Some members may feel optimistic and excited to work together, whereas others may seem unhappy and anxious because of the newly assigned roles and personality clashes.

It is the stage where the team leader describes the observed behaviors of the groups and addresses the challenges. The team should devise a solution for dealing with personality clashes as members are getting used to each other’s working styles. Moreover, to be a successful team, it is essential to collaborate and play to each other’s strengths. 

Active listening works wonders at this stage as members try to understand what their teammates are trying to convey.

Failing to develop effective solutions can result in the group falling apart at this stage.

Stage 3: Norming 

At this stage, the team members come up with new ways to collaborate and develop a consensus regarding the leadership and consciously try to achieve harmony.

Now that team members have become used to each other’s working styles and have developed trust; they are comfortable sharing constructive feedback. 

It is important to note that as the members struggle with new tasks, they may return to the storming stage. However, even if they resort to old behaviors, a problem-solving approach and an eagerness to achieve results will keep them going.

At this stage, the team is more creative and collaborates to accomplish goals. The team leader should solicit ideas and contributions from all team members.

Stage 4: Performing

As the organization and roles are established, it is time to keep the momentum going. At this step, the members work together as a cohesive group and are more inclined to find solutions to problems.

The team members trust each other, and the group morale is high leading to improved performance. They can now participate actively in the decision-making process without much assistance. 

Stage 5: Adjourning

Once the tasks for the project are accomplished, the team breaks up. The members now prepare to bid farewell and end things positively. Group members must manage their feelings of sadness as they disengage from relationships.

As a team leader, it is essential to recognize the contribution of each member and provide an opportunity for the members to say their goodbyes personally.

Self-Evaluation for Each Stage of Group Development

It is essential to understand the stage of development for your team and accordingly take action for its smooth functioning. Here are some signs that will help you identify each stage.

Stage 1- Starting new projects

  • You consider what each member brings to the table (in terms of skill sets and personality)

  • Group members are getting oriented with the tasks at hand

  • They are getting acquainted with the goals to be accomplished

  • You lay out expectations for each team member and the ground rules to follow

  • You talk about time management and project timelines

Stage 2 - Struggle for power

  • You clearly outline the roles of each team member

  • Team members witness conflicts as they are assigned hierarchies

  • You notice the dominant team members emerge

  • The team has questions and concerns regarding leadership and norms of the group

Stage 3 - The beginning of collaboration

  • The team finds new ways to collaborate

  • Questions about leadership and authority are settled

  • On the whole, team members start feeling comfortable working together and sharing constructive feedback

  • The team witnessed an increase in productivity

Stage 4 - A mature approach to conflict resolution

  • The organization and the rules of the team are established 

  • The team is ready to take up new challenges and resolve conflicts that arise at work

  • The team members participate in the decision-making process actively 

Stage 5 - Time to move forward

  • Most of the goals have been accomplished, and the team has fulfilled its purpose

  • Team members are completing the end tasks

  • Members with a lesser workload are assigned new projects

  • The team members feel emotional as it is time to say goodbye

Tips to Get Your Team Ready for All Stages of Group Development

Every stage of group development comes with its set of challenges. Here are a few pointers that will come in handy as you prepare your team for every stage.

Stage 1: Forming

  • The team leader should prepare an elevator pitch where they introduce themselves and let the members know what they would be working on and why.

  • Use icebreakers, which are activities designed to welcome new team members. They provide an excellent opportunity for team members to get to know each other and to have fun.

  • Have a kick-off meeting with the team members where you can highlight the team's goals and culture.

Stage 2: Storming 

  • Focus on team-building activities that help develop trust and camaraderie among the members. It also helps them prioritize the group's success over their individual accomplishments.

"Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability." – Patrick Lencioni

  • Building a great team culture at this stage is beneficial in the long run. So, it is vital to have a culture that promotes collaboration and development. For instance, you should appreciate and reward people who support their team members and make efforts to collaborate. 

  • Conduct one-on-one check-ins to know the challenges faced by individual team members and devise practical solutions. 

Stage 3: Norming

  • Recognize the efforts of individual members of the team as well as those of the group.

  • Conduct a sparring session with your team. Sparring provides quick and honest feedback to your team members so that they know what is working for them and what isn’t.

  • It is an excellent time to evaluate the different processes and the group's productivity. 

Stage 4: Performing

  • Use Retrospective, an agile technique that lets you get some perspective after every iterative cycle. Here the team gets together to discuss what is going well and the areas that need improvement.

  • Brainstorming is another essential technique at this stage that helps your team develop creative solutions to newer challenges.

Stage 5: Adjourning

  • To enable further growth, have a session where you reflect on the project's learnings. The key points should also be well documented for future reference.

  • It is vital to take time out to appreciate the work done by each member. Highlight the growth and positive changes you have witnessed as the team members work together to achieve goals.

Mistakes to Avoid in Five Stages of Group Development

Avoiding the pitfalls in team development can save time and resources. Here are some common mistakes that can ruin your chances of success.

Considering group development as a one-time event

Successful organizations treat group development as an ongoing process, not something that happens occasionally. If you want positive changes in behavior that contribute to more productivity, it takes time and effort. The teams need motivation and support regularly.

There should be a process that enables the team members to learn and grow daily. Also, the leader should try to understand the hurdles to performance and how to overcome them.

Making trainings optional

According to a study, 70% of employees would be somewhat likely to quit their job to work for a company that invests in employee learning and development. So, providing learning opportunities to your team members will help them achieve more.

However, training should be mandatory for everyone if you look forward to improved team performance.

Not enabling leaders to know their shortcomings

A successful team has a leader who is willing to change. So, the leader should take feedback on his performance to identify the areas for improvement. As leaders are active participants in the team, they should recognize their contribution to a problem and develop innovative solutions.

Being overly ambitious

Although it is good to have clear goals, it is also essential to be realistic in your approach. Overworking your team to achieve ambitious goals will result in burnout and affect long-term progress. So, it is critical to realize that it takes time for the team to become productive, and the key is to have practical targets.

Final Thoughts

Building and maintaining a team with members having different personalities and skill sets is a challenging task. However, consistent efforts from the team leader and members help cultivate a team-first mindset. A team where everyone prioritizes the team’s goals over their individual targets is geared for success.

Michael Chen

Michael started his career as a product manager and then developed a passion for writing. He has been writing on technology, remote working, productivity, etc., hoping to share his thoughts with more people.

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