Form, Storm, Norm, Perform, the 4 stages of developing a team

Day 612. I recently came across the four stages of team development, as defined by Bruce Tuckman in the 60’s. As newly appointed Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft in Africa, I am building a team of highly skilled individuals. Although I have some leadership experience, forming a team is always a daunting task. Hiring particularly. Like in many other jobs, you may want to hire fast, and that’s a mistake, you should be hiring well, but not fast, choosing quality above speed. However, if finding A-player is a must to me, having them work as a team is another challenge.

As I said, I came across the form-storm-norm-perform concept while listening to Rising Strong, the latest book of Brené Brown. As per Tuckman’s research, these four stages are necessary and inevitable for a team to strive and deliver results. While reading more on the four stages, they are all shaping the way my team leadership will change and the way I’m going to interact, molding the team to perform at the highest possible level. Allow me to describe it in simple terms:

  • Forming. Getting to know everybody by meeting regularly, not only to talk business but also to exchange personal stories. I am not into « team building » exercises that can be fun, but are always artificial and never, to me, beneficial. I prefer « team bonding » where informal leads to personal.
  • Storming. Like in scuba diving, to me storming goes through buddying. We work individually, challenge in pair, exchange in group. We need to disagree, to provide feedback and act on it. At this stage, respect, listening and empathy are crucial, as clear decision making, clear focus and clear guidance.
  • Norming. Each member is clear of his/her role as individual contributor and is required to contribute to the team well-being and performance. Conflicts will arrive, failure too, this is the test of the group. We will accept failure, learn and rise stronger.
  • Performing. The ultimate test is the results delivered. However, while results will start to be delivered, a sense of belonging, of autonomy of decisions and of pride will emerge. There may be superstars in the team, but the team results will be celebrated before individual’s achievement. No victory is a one’s (wo)man’s victory, it’s always the team’s one!

Although well defined, those stages will melt, and the team may move back and forth depending on the circumstances. I therefore not look at those as four stages well defined, but more as a framework that stood the test of time, that provide guidance. The sextant tells you where you are but never defines the direction! Next rendezvous is mid-year review!

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