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Tuckman Ladder Model: 5 Stages of Team Development

Tuckman Ladder model

Team building is an ongoing process throughout the project. It is crucial for effective project management and eventual project success. So, in order to be effective leaders and managers, one should have a clear idea of what may be going on with his/her team at any point of time. The psyche of a team, as a whole, varies with time. It will be different at the time when a team is just formed, and it will be different at the end of their journey as a team.

Tuckman Ladder Model is one of the models used to describe the process or different stages of team development. Pyschologist Bruce Tuckman, in 1965,  first came up with the four stages of team development in his article “Developmental Sequence in small groups“. These four stages are “forming, storming, norming, and performing”. He said that this is the path that most teams follow on their way to high performance. He later added a fifth stage called “Adjourning” (also called “Mourning”). Thus, there are five stages in the Tuckman Ladder model of team development.

Not only in project management, take any area of work, a team formed to do some work, may not be, mostly will not be, effective from day 1. The team members don’t know one another, and they take time to sync up, it takes time for the team members to know about their collective strengths and weaknesses, and evolve into an effective force. Tuckman ladder model is something that explains the various stages that a team goes through before evolving into an effective force.

Tuckman Ladder Model Stages of of Team Development

According to the Tuckman Ladder model, there are 5 stages in team development. 

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing
  5. Adjourning

According to this model, the process of team development goes through these stages of Forming Stroming Norming Performing and Adjourning respectively in that order.

Let us look at each stage, one by one, in detail..

Forming Stage

  • As the name “Forming” suggests, this stage represents the formation of the team.
  • A group of people are first brought together as a team in this stage.
  • Team members meet each other for the first time in this stage.
  • They learn about the project and their formal roles and responsibilities.
  • Team members are not open to one another and tend to be independent in this stage.
  • Strategies for management of the team in the Forming stage – create ground rules, communicate roles and responsibilities to the team members clearly, ensuring that there is no ambiguity in roles and responsibilities.

Storming Stage

  • The name “Storming”, rightly suggest, storms or turbulence. It is a stage where the team may face lot of turbulence.
  • Team starts to do project work – technical discussions, management approach discussions etc.
  • There are high chances that disagreements may arise between team members in this phase. We already saw that, in Forming stage team members tend to be independent and less open. When there is a group that is involved in discussions there will always be different ideas and perspectives. If the members are not open to these differing ideas and perspectives then disagreements arise.
  • We can say that this is a stage where team members still view themselves as individuals rather than part of the team. They resist control by group leaders.
  • Storming stage is marked by lack of participation, resistance, conflicts, disagreements, high emotions among the team members.
  • Strategies for management of the team in the Storming stage – facilitating constructing decision making through open dialogue between team members, continuous communication with team members, outbound activities for better bonding among team members, encouraging leadership etc.

Norming Stage

  • The name “Norming” suggests normalisation or things cooling down. The project environment starts to get normal after the turbulence it faces in the storming stage.
  • In this phase, team members begin to work together. They tend to collaborate with the team members by adjusting their behaviors and work habits to support the team.
  • It can be said that this is the stage where the team members learn to trust each other, and starts developing good working relationships.
  • Norming stage is marked by traits such as reconciliation, reduced anxiety and emotions, development of trust, and collaboration among the team members.
  • Strategies for management of the team in Norming stage – recognizing and rewarding individual and team efforts, Team bonding activities, provide more learning opportunities, give honest feed back etc.

Performing Stage

  • The name “performing”, suggests that the team performing well.
  • This is the stage when the team evolves into a well organized cohesive unit.
  • Team is efficient and works together effectively.
  • The team members are more interdependent and perform their work efficiently and work through any issues smoothly and effectively.
  • In this stage, Project Manager can give his most attention to developing individual team members.
  • Strategies for management of the team in Performing stage – Minimal Intervention, if feasible help the team to evolve into a self-organizing team, give honest and constructive feedback whenever required etc.

Adjourning Stage

  • The name “Adjourning” rightly suggests ending or stopping.
  • This is the stage when the project work is completed by the team, and the team is released from the project.
  • This occurs in the Close Project or phase process.
  • Strategies for management of the team in Adjourning stage – rewarding and recognizing at both individual and team level, providing support and counselling on career and opportunities to team members, Celebrating.

Tuckman Ladder model is a very important topic and you will see one or more questions on this in the PMP, CAPM and other Certification exams.

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