5 Stages of Team Development (including Examples)

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
stages-of-team-development

Have you ever found it difficult to lead your team to success and achievement?

Do you want to manage your team successfully and execute your team's projects and tasks from start to finish? 

Is your team disorganized and you don't even know what to do? 

If ‘yes' was your answer, then you need to read this article

About 57 years ago, a behavioral psychologist named Bruce Wayne Tuckman conducted research and came up with four phases that every healthy team would need to pass through. 

They are known as the stages of team development and they include forming, storming, norming, and performing

Twelve years later, he collaborated with his colleague, Mary Ann Jensen to include another stage known as the adjourning stage.

So, sit back and let's dive into the globally accepted five stages of team development.

1. Forming

Just as one stair leads to another in a staircase, the successful completion of each stage in team development leads to the beginning of another stage. 

All the stages of team development begin with a single stage and that is the forming stage.

Without the forming stage, all other stages can never exist.

The forming stage of team development is simply when the team comes together.

Whether from different departments or from a single department in the organization, team members come together and unite for a common goal.

Usually, the team leader and team member' specific roles might not be well defined at this stage as members of the team are still to be completely organized. 

To better understand what this forming stage is all about, think of a high school. 

At the commencement of every new session, students from far and wide come together to form new classes with the common goal of completing the class and moving on to the next.

Common Characteristic of the Forming Stage

1. There is an acknowledgement of a common goal

Let's go back to our example for a moment. 

All of the students who resume for the new classes at a high school have only one goal in mind; complete the class and move on to the next class.

Even though these students might not be conversant with the things to do in their new classes, they all believe they would complete it successfully. 

It is the same with the forming stage of team development. 

Team members always acknowledge that their coming together is for a common goal

This common goal might range from project management, project planning, product release, quality management and all sorts of important business operations.

2. Team members are excited and curious

Excitement and curiosity are two emotions which are usually felt by the team members.

Think of the rush of positive feelings that gush through you when you set your new year resolutions or the cloud-nine emotions you felt when you firstly started your own business. 

Or how you felt when you started a new job. 

These are some of the feelings that team members experience too. 

These feelings of excitement are sometimes mixed with curiosity and anxiety as well. 

What are my specific roles in this team?”

“What would be my contributions to the team?”

“Would I feel fulfilled at the end of the team?” 

These are some questions that run through the mind of team members during this forming stage.

3. There is low level of productivity

Since members are still yet to be conversant with their specific roles, there is usually a low level of productivity at this stage.

Most of the efforts are directed towards getting a better understanding of the team goals, mission and values.

Roles of the Team Leader

As the team leader, you can organize an introduction event in which the only goal of the event would be for team members to get familiar with each other.

Consider setting up a good orientation process similar to an employee orientation that will help team members to have clear knowledge and understanding of the team's mission, goals, objectives and values.

When these steps are taken, then the team can proceed to the next stage.

2. Storming

Have you ever been on a sea voyage?

Well, it's very likely you have heard of sea storms even if you have never been on a sea voyage.

One of the most common dangers of sea voyages is seastorms

Sailors usually prepare means of surviving these storms, even before embarking on the sea journey. 

Sea storms can wreck the ship and terminate the journey if they eventually occur during the course of the voyage. 

Most especially, when they are not successfully managed.

That's why sailors concentrate all of their efforts into surviving sea storms and even go as far as disposing goods on board just to keep the ship afloat. 

Failure to manage the storms successfully can lead to disastrous effects.

It is the same with the storming stage of team development

The storming stage is the most important and critical stage among all the other stages even though it is not as life threatening as sea storms. Failure to manage this stage successfully can cause the failure of the team.

Common Characteristic of the Storming Stage

1. Members of the team are dissatisfied with one another

In this storming stage, team members begin to take note of their differences which most times leads to dissatisfaction with each other.

Individual personalities emerge and feelings of frustration and anger begin to set in. 

Infact, you might even notice your team members disintegrating into smaller groups and cliques. 

At this stage, the unity of the team is close to negligible. 

Let's say you recently took on a job as the head of a department. 

Initially, on the first day, you are eager and excited to start and contribute your own quota to the development of the department and the organization as a whole. 

But sooner than later, you begin to notice the differences and personalities of the different employees that make up the department.

While one loves to get the job done irrespective of the time it takes, another is mainly concerned about getting the job done on time.

Different individuals with different personalities begin to emerge.

2. Team members can be critical of the team progress

Apart from being dissatisfied with each other, team members also begin to criticize the team progress.

Some of them might even start to question the team's goals and objectives.

This happens because the team members, at this stage, realizes that all of their earlier excitements and high expectations for the team are different from the team's immediate reality

Team members exhibit various types of negative emotions as opposed to the positive emotions they felt in the forming stage.

3. Shift of focus to unproductive activities

Another common characteristic of the storming stage is that the team members are distracted from achieving the team's goals and objectives.

Instead, they concentrate on the negative feelings they have towards each other and the team at large.

This, in turn, leads to a very low level of productivity and the team is far from achieving their mission and objectives.

Roles of the Team Leader

You have to utilize different methods of conflict management while leading members to understand and take comfort in their differences. 

Also, consider breaking down the team's large goals into smaller ones so the team can focus on accomplishing the smaller ones first before concentrating on the bigger ones thereafter. 

This way, the team's progress will be visible to the team members. 

Managing the storming stage successfully sets you on track to the next stage which is the norming stage.

3. Norming

Resolution and acceptance.

These are the two values that define the norming stage of team development.

Imagine if the ship's sailors were able to navigate through the stormy sea storms and waves. 

Imagine the calmness and tranquility that follows afterwards.

Now, everything is peaceful, the sea is settled and the ship can move on steadily with the journey.

These are the direct representations of what happens in the norming stage of team development.

After the team might have successfully navigated the storming stage, then the norming stage is where resolution and acceptance take place.

And the team is more focused on achieving its goals and objectives.

Common Characteristic of the Norming Stage

1. Members of the team learn to accept others irrespective of their differences

It is generally known and accepted that no two individuals are exactly alike no matter how similar they might look.

Take, for example, identical twins.

Even though identical twins are no different from each other in terms of physical appearances, they are very likely to have different characters, orientation and personalities.

How much more a team which comprises individuals from different backgrounds and environments where each individual has its own peculiarities and differences.

But this doesn't split a team which is at the norming stage of team development.

Members of the team have learnt to accept each other regardless of their differences.

Each member cares more about the unity of the team than purchasing self values.

The team comes first before any other separating orientations.

2. Team members resolve arising conflicts and issues fast

Conflicts and quarrels are parts of every human organization.

And it is the same with a team irrespective of the team's apparent unity. 

Even though members of the team might have learnt to accept each other, conflicts can still occur occasionally.

However, conflicts are quickly resolved in a team at the norming stage.

Before the discord and disharmony could eat deep into the team and revert it back to the storming stage, they are promptly resolved as they arise.

3. Members of the team work together to achieve team's objectives

Since the team is rarely disturbed with conflicts and disagreements, every member of the team can easily work together to achieve the team's goals

And this would lead to an increase in team's productivity and performance.

Roles of the Team Leader

Ensuring that the team doesn't go back to the storming stage is one of your topmost roles as the team leader.

To do this, encourage your team members to engage in constant communication with one another.

Also, criticisms should not be totally prohibited but you should leave space for constructive feedback and criticisms.

You can make conscious efforts to set up conflict resolution processes and policies. 

Do all these and your team is prepared for the next stage of team development which is the dream stage of all teams.

4. Performing

What happens when a group of people who have come together for a common goal do not allow their differences to cloud their judgements and actions? 

What happens when the unity and strength of the team matters to every team member more than any personal interests? 

What happens to a team where members have learnt to take strength in their differences and are much focused on achieving their set goals and objectives? 

Yeah, your guesses are as good as mine. 

And we are both correct.

The performance level of the team is high and each member of the team strives to make his or her best contributions to the success of the team.

Common Characteristic of the Performing Stage

1. The team is well organized and team members are committed to the success of the team

Team organization is highest at the performing stage of team development.

Every member of the team is well-conversant with the team's goals and objectives, the team structure visibly is clear, and individual team members know their specific roles and responsibilities. 

At this performing stage, everybody knows who the leader of the team is and what they are supposed to do for the success of the team. 

Also, the team might invest in task management software to plan, organize, and manage the team's tasks and activities. 

Team collaboration is very high at this stage and team members can easily make use of team collaboration software to further increase their collaboration level. 

That's not all, the team might also invest in other helpful tools paramount to the team's success such as team management software, work management software, workflow management software, and business management software.

2. Members of the team contribute their best efforts and abilities

The performing stage does not only stop at the team members recognizing their roles and responsibilities alone. 

Of what use is recognition without putting in the necessary inputs? 

So, the performing stage sees all the members of the team up and doing with their various responsibilities

The leader guides and directs the team on a regular basis, the team members carry out the leader's instructions and put in their best efforts. 

At this stage, the team might meet more often than not and communicate physically and digitally with office phone systems and video conferencing tools

The team is very active at this stage and mainly concentrated on achieving its purpose of formation.

Members of the team are not easily swayed by side distractions but are focused, concentrated, and dedicated.

3. The team performance is highest at the performing stage

Since everyone's hand is on deck at this stage, the team's performance will highly increase to the maximal level. 

There is a very low tendency for conflicts to occur and the team members are only focused on carrying out its goals. 

In fact, it is at this stage that the team eventually fulfills its mission and goals, after maximum contributions from each member of the team

Your Roles as the Team Leader

At this stage, you might need to become more active than ever in making sure the team is still on the right path towards the achievement of its goals and objectives. 

You can create a clear outline of the team's current status versus its scheduled goals and objectives

And you can also use data visualization tools to visualize important data and monitor the team's performance.

Once, you are able to guide the team to complete the performing stage successfully, then your team is set for the final stage of team development.

5. Adjourning

The adjourning stage is the last stage of team development which signifies that the team is ready for dismissal.

The original model of team development stages presented by psychologist Bruce Tuckman in 1965 doesn't include the adjourning stage.

Instead, it stopped at the performing stage.

However, in 1977, Tuckman together with Mary Ann Jensen proposed another stage which is the final stage and is known as the Adjourning stage.

At this stage, the team is believed to have completed its tasks and can be satisfactorily dissolved.

The adjourning stage is also known as the mourning or termination stage of team development.

Common Characteristic of the Adjourning Stage of Team Development

1. The team projects have been fully accomplished

Before the team can finally move to this last stage, they have to complete the performing stage where members of the team put in their best for the success of the team. 

At this stage, therefore, the team's projects have been completed successfully and its missions and goals successfully accomplished

Let's say the team was formed to oversee the development of a particular product and test the quality of the developed products. 

At this level, the products have been fully developed and tested as specified in the team's mission and objectives. 

However, note that there are also some rare occasions where the team might not have completed its projects successfully and still move on to this stage.

2. Team members are happy with the progress of the team so far

How do you feel when you are finally able to achieve your goals? 

You feel happy, satisfied and proud of yourself. 

For example, let's say you used an organization app to plan your day and organize your tasks.

And you were able to tick all the boxes by the end of the day. 

This success, no matter how little it may seem, will reinforce your satisfaction, happiness and pride.

Well, team members get the same positive feelings at this adjourning stage.

Do you remember the anxiety the new team members felt in the forming stage when they didn't know what lies ahead?

Now, their anxiety has been fully satisfied and they are pleased with themselves and the progress of the team generally.

3. Team members feel sad about their upcoming separation and are anxious about future expectations

Regardless of the happiness of the team members at this stage, they also feel sad.

This sadness is caused by their impending separation. 

Have you ever left a particular job or a neighborhood? 

If you have done so, then there are chances you have also experienced such negative feelings associated with separation, especially if you had a great time with the organization or your now-former neighbors. 

Since the team members have gone through the storming and the norming stages of team development together, they have been able to form a considerable degree of cohesion and unity amidst themselves. 

They accepted their differences and worked together for the fulfillment of the common goal regardless.

So, they could have a hard time separating

But apart from the sadness, they also feel anxious about what they should expect in the future, especially in the organization. 

The minds of the team members are occupied with questions like “what would be the next project?” 

“Which new team would I join and who would be my new members?” 

All these questions, in turn, breed worry and anxiety in their hearts.

Your Roles as the Team Leader

You have done a good job if you can manage your team successfully to reach this last stage of team development. 

However, remember that the team's success was also dependent on the collective efforts of all team members. 

Therefore, consider acknowledging the efforts of each member of your team. 

For example, you can organize a celebration party where the team members can celebrate the team's achievement and reflect on the past activities in the team. 

It is also your responsibility as the team leader to calm the nerves of your team members about future expectations.

And it doesn't end at that; ensure they are comfortable with their next endeavors.

Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.