Group Development with Cody Rockwood

The stages of group development were originally proposed by Bruce Tuckman, Ph.D. in an article he wrote in 1965 called “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” Dr. Tuckman was a psychologist who researched in the area of group dynamics. He started his career as a researcher for the Naval Medical Research Institute in a think tank setting looking at small group dynamics for small crew vessels and finished his career as a professor at Ohio State University. While most of his research focussed on education and college students his Stages of Group Development have been used in many industries where small groups work together toward a single goal.

In the original article Dr. Tuckman states that team growth and dynamics are influenced by the setting in which the group is working, the area where the group behavior falls at any point, and the where the group is in the sequence. He originally wrote about four phases of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. In 1977 he added a fifth stage called Adjourning. Dr. Tuckman states that they are all necessary for a team to grow and work together.

“I didn’t quite go ‘full med student’ on this one but I did go ‘all out grad student’ which is OK.”

Most critique of Dr. Tuckman’s stages state they are too linear as groups may move in and out of different phases at different times. A group with members that have worked together before may start in forming then move into norming and performing but hit a setback that brings them to storming or re-norming. Timothy Biggs suggests rearranging the stages so that norming comes after forming and again after storming before reaching true performing. Robert Bales suggests that group members seek a balance between accomplishing tasks related to the project and building interpersonal relationships.

No matter the order or composition of the team all small groups go through these phases in the process of working together. The trick is to continually be producing while the team is in the process up to performing.

Episode Breakdown

10:09 Forming

Forming is the initial stage where the team meets and learns about project and agrees on goals. Most members are positive and polite though some may be anxious or excited to get started. Members tend to exhibit their best behavior in this stage. The more mature members model appropriate behavior for the team. The environment plays an important role in setting the tone and behavioral model. Member’s roles and responsibilities are not clear at this stage. Leadership has a stronger influence on the group.

“It’s the honeymoon phase.”

Tuckman describes this phase as orientation, testing, and dependence. This is where members of the group try to discover what is and is not accepted by the group. Boundaries are set by reactions and responses from members and leadership. Group members are tasked with identifying the relevant parameters and how the group will accomplish the goal.

The issues facing the team in this stage have to do with orientation and not knowing what is to come. Orientation both to the task at hand and the other team members is a major function of this stage. There is a fear of the unknown in this stage as well. What is expected of the individual member? What is expected of the team as a whole? How will other members react to these expectations?

19:44 Storming

The second stage of group formation starts when members begin to push against the boundaries set in the previous stage. This starts when members notice differences in each others working styles. Some individuals may feel they are taking on more work than others. Assumptions are made about work habits of others. It can come about through challenging leadership or members may be vying for position on the team. The team may not have clearly defined roles. Members may be overwhelmed with assumed workload placed on individual. Each team will vary in their duration, intensity, and destructiveness during this phase.

“The team has to be careful and conscious of excluding people because it’s more natural for some to hang out.”

Tuckman describes this phase as resistance to group influence and task requirements. Members of the group become hostile toward each other and leadership. Group members resist the formation of group structure by ‘infighting’ and uneven interaction. Members may react emotionally to resist demands placed on the individual.

There are several issues facing the team during this stage. Disagreements within the team must be resolved because personality clashes can bring work to a halt. There are no strong ties to colleagues for support in stressful times. Stress on the team is increased as there is a lack of established processes. It can be re-entered if new members added or new challenges or disagreements come up.

33:38 Norming

“Harmony is of maximum importance” ~ Bruce Tuckman

This stage comes about when members start to resolve their differences and work as a team toward a goal. Members appreciate each others strengths and respect the authority {Cartman voice} of leadership. They all take responsibility for the success of the team as a whole. Members share a common goal and there is a group ambition to succeed. Individual differences are tolerated to achieve the greater goal.

“Some team members are going to go through this faster than others.”

Tuckman describes this phase as openness to other group members. Group cohesion is formed as members accept the group and the individual members. Members develop an open exchange of interpretation of the tasks or goals of the group.

The biggest risk in norming is regression to storming through addition of new members to the team or new challenges. New tasks can also create problems for the team. Members not accepting idiosyncrasies of other members may come into play if the team has been off for a time such as around the holidays.

43:50 Performing

This stage is reached when the team works without friction to meet the goals of the project. The structure and process of team interaction has already been set up. Members are competent and knowledgeable, autonomous, and comfortable in their decision making processes. Less supervision is required of the team. Leadership still participates but the team makes most of the decisions.

“The team members know how to communicate.”

Tuckman describes this phase as constructive action. The group becomes a problems solving instrument. Members take on roles that will enhance the activities of the group. The effort previously used for group interactions now is placed on task achievement.

The largest issue or fear facing the team is that management will see the success and then break the team up thinking that individual members can help other teams that are still in the storming phase. In addition a total lack of supervision can cause regression to earlier stages. Over supervision can lead to under-performance. Also changing circumstances can cause regression to norming or even storming phases.

58:35 Adjourning or Mourning

“This comes about when the project is over or the organization is restructured.”

This final stage occurs when the project is complete and the team is broken up. Most teams reach this stage eventually. Project teams only last for a fixed period of time and permanent teams may be restructured during organizational changes. Members tend to have mixed emotions about the conclusion of a project. They will feel sadness at the disbanding of the team and excitement at finishing a project. Some may even experience anxiety or fear of starting on a new team.

“The reward for working hard and working well together is the team gets split up.”

Tuckman describes this phase as disengagement. The group is concerned with disengaging and ending the relationships built during the project. There is a sense of sadness at separation and some self evaluation. Groups members usually experience positive feelings toward each other and leadership even if there had been conflict during the project.

Members of the team may find this stage difficult because they like the routine established in earlier phases and have developed close relationships with each other. Individual fear of the unknown due to loss of known structure can cause members to be hesitant to start the process over again.

IoTease: Project

Win 10 Core Ultrasonic Distance Mapper

This project creates a RADAR type device using Ultrasonic Distance Sensors and a servo. Distance is typically measured with sound or light (infrared). These sensors measure distance within 80-500cm. RADAR requires a rotating sensor hence the servo. The servo is controlled by an Arduino and the sensor by a Raspberry Pi running Windows 10 IoT Core.

Hardware

  • Arduino Nano R3
  • Raspberry Pi 2B
  • Ultrasonic Distance Sensor
  • Servo
  • Resistors (1k and 2k)
  • Jumper Wires
  • Breadboard

Software

  • Arduino IDE
  • Visual Studio 2015
  • Windows 10 IoT Core

Tricks of the Trade

Rip off the BandAid! Difficult situations do not get easier by waiting. This appears counterintuitive because most people were raised to avoid conflict. However, conflicts get worse by ignoring them. Resentment and anger at loss of control tends to be worse than the conflict.

Editor’s Notes:

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