This article explains the Tuckman stages of group development, developed by Bruce Tuckman in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this great and powerful group development tool.
Tuckman stages group of development provide insight into the development of a team over time. According to Bruce Tuckman the stages should be followed in a predetermined order. Only then a team can function optimally. A team cannot perform well unless it has experienced conflicts and has set behavioural standards.
Tuckman stages of group development
Bruce Tuckman distinguishes five stages of group development. These stages need not always be strictly followed one after the other; teams often get stuck halfway through the process. Rules of behaviour and agreements will then have to be drawn up but these are not always very productive. During the first two stages of the Tuckman stages of group development, it is about social-emotional tasks. Stage three and four of Tuckman stages of group development are more focused on task-oriented tasks:
A new team still has to be organized and is therefore concerned with orientation; what kind of people are in the team and what are their tasks? Despite the independent behaviour of the team members, they still look to the team leader for guidance. They do not really know what the objectives of the entire team are and what is expected of them. This is why many team members feel insecure. In order to create a good team, it is important that a team leader trusts the team members and that he discusses with them what his expectations are.
The team is becoming more close-knit and the team members are gaining each other’s trust. They voice their opinions as a result of which conflicts may arise. The individual personalities of the team members emerge when they confront each other’s ideas and perspectives. Still, they hesitate to voice their opinions for fear of being excluded from the group. The team leader has a guiding role in this difficult transition stage. He has to encourage team members to speak freely and to be open-minded. A tolerant attitude is of crucial importance in this. In addition, it is essential that team members resolve possible conflicts by themselves. Only then can they proceed to the next stage within Tuckman stages of group development.
After the storming stage of the Tuckman stages of group development, the team starts working in a fulfilling manner. Criticism is not taken personally any more, but is considered to be constructive and task-oriented. The team members are open to each other’s ideas. The team cooperates on establishing rules, values, standards and methods. This increases the efficiency of the team. The team is developing its own identity. The team leader can give the team more autonomy so that the team can work independently.
During the performing stage, the team functions as a unit and the energy of the group will benefit the task. All team members know exactly what is expected of them and they work together towards goals and objectives. Team members understand the objectives of the team and they support them. The atmosphere in the team is good and the cooperation is clear. The team functions excellently and is capable of making decisions independently and autonomously without having to confer with the team leader.
When the tasks of the team have been completed, the team can be dissolved. The team members may experience anxiety as they will have to let go of the group. This is why they will distance themselves from each other so that the sense of loss will be more bearable. The team leader would do well to pay attention to the dissolution of the team, for example by planning an official farewell party.
Criticism on Tuckman ‘s stages
As Tuckman stages of group development particularly apply to relatively small groups (3 to 12 people), it is not entirely clear how group dynamics would evolve in larger groups. Furthermore, it appears that group processes do not evolve as linearly as Tuckman describes because they tend to evolve more cyclically. And sometimes it is unclear regarding the Tuckman stages of group development when a team proceeds to the next stage within the stages of group development. Nor does Bruce Tuckman provide any advice on the time frame that is required for each of the stages.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Do you recognize the Tuckman stages of group development? If so, do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for good group development and team management?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Maples, M. F. (1988). Group development: Extending Tuckman’s theory. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 13(1), 17-23.
- Tuckman, B. W. (1965), Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychol. Bull. 63:384-99.
- Tuckman, B. W., Abry, D. A., Adams, M. P., & Smith, D. R. (2007). Learning and motivation strategies: Your guide to success. Prentice Hall.
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