Cog’s Ladder of Group Development

cog's ladder - Toolshero

Cog’s ladder model: in this article, Cog’s ladder is explained in a practical way. This article contains a general definition of Cog’s ladder, its stages and a conclusion. After reading it, you will know the basics of this powerful management tool. Enjoy reading!

What is Cog’s ladder model?

Cog’s ladder model is a group development tool that can be used to identify to what extent group members have reached their maternity in group work.

The model was created in 1979 by George Charrier, and it was first used to help P&G executives improve operational efficiency.

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The model looks like Tuckman stages of group development, which is another group development model that argues that a group cannot perform well unless it has experienced conflicts and has set behavioral standards.

According to Cog’s ladder, newly formed groups always go through various stages. The model suggests that if a group want to reach the final stages, it must go through all the previous ones. Cog’s ladder additionally indicates that the final stage is the most efficient.

Teams that work in this stage work for this reason most efficient. The model is today used to assess the development of group work in various businesses and organizations.

Cog’s ladder stages

Cog’s ladder assumes that there are five stages needed for a group to collaborate efficiently. The five stages are identified as the following:

  1. Polite stage
  2. Why we’re here stage
  3. Power stage
  4. Cooperation stage
  5. Esprit stage
Cog's ladder stages - toolshero

Figure 1 – The Stages of Cog’s Ladder

1. Polite stage

The first stage of Cog’s ladder is many times seen as the most comfortable stage of the model. In this stage, people in groups are getting to know each other, and for this reason, the conversations are pretty much basic.

This is normal for people in groups because people do not know each other yet. Group members sometimes think of first impressions, so there is a high likelihood people will not debate in this stage or share all their opinion.

For this reason, in this stage of Cog’s ladder, group member focus on getting along with each other by having friendly conversations. Even though this is also referred to as the most comfortable stage of Cog’s ladder, it is also one of the most important ones because it lays the foundation for future group work.

Group members will have preferences of people to work with and with who they are willing to sharing more personal information.

2. Why we’re here stage

As the name implies, this stage of Cog’s ladder is concerned with the quality and competences of the group members. At this point, the introductory is phase has completed, and group members feel more comfortable to communicate with each other.

In some cases, people may have preferences with who to work with. However, it is in this stage more important for group members to understand the reason why a particular group has been created, and thus, identify one’s quality and competences.

Commonly, the group leader assigns tasks and responsibilities in this stage of Cog’s ladder to each group member so that everyone knows what is expected of them and what is expected of the group result.

However, it is crucial to mention that group work just might be starting to make progress because it is more important to understand the group- and individual goals.

If this stage is executed effectively, it is going to be easier for the group to complete the next stages successfully.

Besides, communication among group members is happening more frequently due to the elimination of communication barriers. However, the chance exists that group members form smaller groups in the group.

3. Power stage

Cog’s ladder argues that this stage is all about discussion because of the race to identifying groups member’s qualities and competitiveness. It does not necessarily mean that these are negative conflicts because as long as good argumentations are given for ideas, it is referred to as constructive feedback.

However, it many times happens that the most extraverted and confident group members explicitly share their thoughts intending to obtain a leadership role in the group. This does not help to reach the group goals, but it is a natural human instinct to act in this behavior.

For this reason, the group leader many times let group member actively discuss and share their thoughts. It can be seen as a positive competition because it helps to identify creative ideas.

However, the downside of lots of discussions is that it does not lead to solutions. It is for this reason in its best interest of the group to go through this phase, which can sometimes require patience. When the group has completed this stage, more work will be provided by group members, and group goals are easier to achieve.

4. Cooperation stage

In this stage of Cog’s ladder, group members realize that group work is not about individualistic contributions and results; it is about group work and group results. At this point, conflicts are minimal, and group members closely collaborate to achieve common goals.

The members have now completed all stages. They learned to know each other, they have interacted by sharing their thoughts and ideas, they had positive conflicts, and now they are ready to work together effectively.

As a result of the completion of the previous stages in Cog’s ladder, the group’s productivity substantially increases. The individualistic approach has now transformed into a collectivistic approach because group members think of the group interests.

However, it is essential to note that group members have put in the effort to reach this stage of Cog’s ladder. If for some reason a new team member comes on board, the group must go through all the previous stages again.

The new group member needs to get along with the group, and there is a high likelihood that the new member wants to show its qualities and competitiveness to complete the job.

5. Esprit stage

The last stage of Cog’s ladder is for many groups almost not achievable due to different factors. This could be the introduction of new group members but also because of not successfully completing the previous stages. This is because it is expected in the esprit stage that the group performs its work on its best.

All group member knows their task and responsibilities, but moreover, group members trust each other based on their qualities and competencies. For groups to achieve this stage, they must also be able to communicate with each other effectively.

As a result of reaching this stage of Cog’s ladder, time is only spent on necessary tasks, and thus, group problems are minimal. It enables the group to focus on the core work, which will lead to group results in a high pace.

Cog’s ladder conclusion

Cog’s ladder is a powerful tool to get the most out of group member and employees if it understood correctly. Cog’s ladder is concerned about all group members, but the group leader must make sure that the group goes through all stages.

The group leader should serve as a facilitator and provide the necessary tools to help the group go through all stages.

For example, the group leader could stimulate ice-breaking games to enhance team building in the first stage. The group leader should also stimulate discussion so that every group member has the chance to share ideas which could lead creative ones.

However, the facilitator must set boundaries and delegate tasks in a manner where everyone agrees to. In the end, it is all about teamwork and group results. For this reason, the group leader has to help guide the group member go through all phased so that they can trust each other and rely on each other’s qualities and competencies.

In this way, effectively group work is going to be achieved, and goals are going to be realized.

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Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the stages of Cog’s ladder of group development? Have you experienced conflicts in your groupwork, and did you later managed to achieve effective group work? Do you have more suggestions?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Bennis, W. G., & Shepard, H. A. (1956). A theory of group development. Human relations, 9(4), 415-437.
  2. Charrier, G. O. (1972). Cog’s ladder: a model of group growth. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 37(1), 30-38.
  3. Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited. Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), 419-427.

How to cite this article:
Zeeman, A. (2019). Cog’s Ladder of Group Development. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Original publication date: 03/14/2019 | Last update: 04/30/2024

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Alexander Zeeman
Article by:

Alexander Zeeman

Alexander Zeeman is Content Manager at ToolsHero where he focuses on Content production, Content management and marketing. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business school. Currently, in his study, working on the development of various management competencies and improving operational business processes.


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