Here’s a secret: your teamwork dynamics reflect in the quality of your end-product, making it all the more important to invest effort in working constructively as a team.
Whether you have taken a Management course in college, done research on teamwork, or have simply been interested in seeking knowledge regarding team-building, you are likely to have encountered the 4 stages of team development: forming, norming, storming, and performing (Tuckman 1965).
In 1977, a fifth stage was added, by Bruce Tuckman and Mary Ann Jenson. This stage was ‘adjourning’.
5 Stages of Team Development:
Let’s briefly discuss what these terms mean, and then we’ll share some close insights on how we implement these stages at Kualitee, while working on a team project.
Before we dive into more detail, let’s have a quick look at some of the major elements of these stages.
- Introduction of team members
- Getting familiarized with the project details
- Discussing team goals and project objectives
- Delegating roles and responsibilities
- Developing team norms
- Brainstorming ideas
- Competing for acceptance (of ideas)
- Learning how to deal with conflict
- Accepting and tolerating differences within the team
- Finding your place within the team
- Settling down as a team
- Cooperating; working towards a common end-goal
- Easier communication
- Higher productivity
- Giving and receiving constructive feedback/criticism
- Receptive to team members’ ideas
- A clear understanding of others’ tasks and duties
- Problem-solving strategies; conflicts easily resolved
- Established confidence amongst the team members
- Know-how of others’ strengths and shortcomings
- Strong sense of unity
- Concluding tasks and consequently, the project
- Reflecting on what went well
- Reflecting on what could have been improved
- Breaking up as a team
- Shifting to new/other projects
Now that we have a grasp over what each stage entails, let us analyze how all these factors come into play when we work together on a project. Remember, leading a team constructively is an important part of project management. Here’s a tip: do pay close attention to the takeaways, and implement them in your own team management if you want to see a positive transformation in your team dynamics!
There is a new project in the pipeline. All involved team members, belonging to different departments, come together to get introduced to each other and the project. Those working remotely join online, their anticipation emanating from behind their screens. The atmosphere isn’t exactly what one would call comfortable—there are high levels of what would be a mix of inquisitiveness, uncertainty, and slight apprehension.
To eliminate the tension in the air and get the team members settled in, the team lead steps in. He or she gets everyone introduced to one another. The members get to know each other’s names, roles, interests…and you know, the typical ice-breaking practice (dreaded by most) unfolds. The tension lessens.
Next, the team lead goes over the details concerning the project. He or she apprises to everyone about the project’s objectives, timeline, resources, and so on—while also delegating roles and responsibilities to all team members.
Towards the end of the meeting, much of the uncertainty that was ever-present earlier has dissolved. There is a certain degree of understanding between team members, and a general idea about what needs to be done.
Takeaways for team leader: Focus on explaining the team objective and tasks with maximum clarity on what is expected from each role. Break the ice and build a comfortable and safe environment to work.
Now comes chaos. All team members are brainstorming ideas, pushing for what they think is the best approach. Of course, they want to establish their prominence, while trying to prove their worth. There is likely to be conflict. Lots of it. Members disagreeing with each other, talking over one another, debating about what they think is best. X, from the marketing team, wants to highlight a certain feature in the upcoming campaign, while Y, from the sales team, does not think that is such a great idea. Both of them argue until a plausible solution is reached, which somewhat caters to the desires of both.
On the brighter side, everyone becomes acquainted with what the other’s thinking process is. This helps develop an understanding of how to handle future dissent, and the team lead can figure out a mechanism whereby everyone can be satisfied (to some extent anyway).
Team members start adjusting to their roles. Some might prefer to be at the forefront and be more vocal, while others may prefer to work silently. Slowly and gradually, they start settling in—while keeping their differences aside (and simultaneously learning how to do so).
Takeaways for team leader: This is the part where your patience as a leader is likely to get tested the most. It is also the part that will build the grounds for how your team will work together for the rest of the project. Thus, you have to be particularly vigilant during this phase.
Motivate all team members to speak up and give their input. Listen to everyone’s ideas, and make them feel that their suggestions are valuable. Whenever a conflict arises, don’t fret. Instead, come up with the best possible strategies to dissolve dissent, as these are the same practices that your team members will be adopted for the remainder of the project.
Don’t rush things or get frustrated. Invest a significant amount of time and effort in getting the team members acquainted with each other, as this will pay off later. An off-site trip can come in handy.
It finally hits: everyone is working together for a common end goal. As this thought becomes clearer, team members start to push their individual preferences aside, realizing that those didn’t really matter, to begin with.
As discontent drifts away, communication becomes easier. X and Y, who could have never envisioned getting along, are now excitedly sharing notes with each other on how they imagine the end results to look like. Z, who hadn’t spoken up since the first meeting (that too, when he’d had no choice but to introduce himself), is bursting with new strategies and discussing them with anyone who can spare a minute to listen. Finally, M, who had earlier had an outburst of anger when being critiqued for the plan he had come up with, is busy going around asking for suggestions on how to improve the quality of his work.
Team productivity levels, as you may have guessed by now, are high. This can be seen in the results of the work being produced.
Takeaways for team leader: You need to emphasize that all team members are working towards a common end goal. Keep reminding your team about this. Talk to them about the benefits of agile collaboration. Encourage communication and inter-mingling of departments. Be receptive to feedback from the team members. Whenever you notice improvements in productivity or the quality of the work, point it out to the team (and perhaps offer a free cup of coffee or some cookies?) to motivate them to keep working hard—or even harder.
Balance the needs of all departments and don’t let any one of them ‘win’. Otherwise, that would create unnecessary divisions in the agile team.
Uh-oh. X and Y are on the brink of arguing, yet again. But this time, they know how to resolve it before things get ugly. In less than ten seconds, the issue is sorted.
H, from the developing team, notices that K, from QA, seems to be taking a bit longer with her task as has been allotted in the schedule. However, H doesn’t fret. She has confidence in K’s work and has faith that the latter will be done in time. Even if the task isn’t completed by the given deadline, at least it’ll be of high quality, as H trusts K for the work she produces.
This strong sense of unity and cohesiveness tightly binds the team together, and of course, the results of this manifest in their performance.
Takeaways for team leaders: By now, you should have confidence in your team’s ability to work together. Acknowledge the small wins, keep the morale up. If not, work more on the previously discussed takeaways.
After a few days, weeks, or months of hard work, the team members conclude their tasks. The project, now finished (and looking good!) draws to a close.
All members gather around once again (with the remote workers sitting, exhausted, behind their video conference screens), and reflect on their work. Everyone praises the other for their hard work and discusses the extent to which the project goals were met—and how effectively they were done so. Shortcomings are also discussed, and the members note down factors that could be improved for upcoming projects, along with ideas on how that can be done.
Eventually, with the closure of this project, all members move on to their next tasks.
Takeaways for team leader: After completion of the project, don’t just disperse your team right away. Sit down with them, and thoroughly discuss all the wins and shortcomings of the project. Give individualized feedback to all team members, so they know which areas they could improve on for future projects, or which practices sticking with. This process will also give you insights on how to improve your project management next time.
This is how Kualitee implements the 5 stages of team development while working as a team. Things are bound to get tough at times, we won’t deny that. However, with unfaltering cooperation, and a strong sense of willingness to work together, even the rockiest teams can become rock solid (see what we did there?) in no time. And of course, the strength of your team manifests in the end result of your project—this, in itself, speaks volumes about the importance of teamwork and agile collaboration.
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