There are times when I discover that something I thought was widely known – isn’t. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I blog.
These conversations have mostly been within the context of teams that are virtual.
In one particular case the conversation was about a team that is clearly in the “storming” phase. When I said this people looked at me blank, so I went on to explain the process of team development. Once I’d done that people started to understand what needed to be done.
I work across a number of virtual team, quite often these teams get to a phase where they don’t progress, and nothing gets resolved, they get stuck in “storming”.
The main reason for this, in my opinion, is because the technology we use to support such teams is particularly poor during this phase. It’s very difficult to work through the conflicts of a storming phase on a teleconference, if not impossible. People tend to do one of two things; they are either over-aggressive, or passive, neither of which actually resolve the issues. Teams, therefore, languish in the “storming” phase and never get to “norming”.
Another reason is that people don’t understand that they need to go through these phases, because they don’t know that the phases exist. So here’s my summary:
- Forming – Everyone is on their best behaviour, no-one wants to be the one to step out of line, but neither do people get anything of any real value done.
- Storming – The first conflict arrives and the team members show their true colours.
- Norming – Members are getting to know each other. People start to make allowances for each other and realising where everyone’s skills are.
- Performing – The team runs like clock-work, the leaders don’t have much to do because everyone knows what they are doing.
I have rarely been in a team that is truly “performing”, it takes time and effort to get there.
It’s interesting to note that when I get together with the members of one of the teams that did get to “performing” we quickly move to “norming” with only the minimum of “forming” and “storming”. It’s also interesting to note that one of the teams where we got to “performing” became regarded as a threat by managers and was actively shut down. It’s not always, necessarily, in everyone’s best interest to have a high performance team.
These things are never precise, but I’ve found it a useful model for understanding situations.
Some more information: