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The Five Stages of Team Development – Every Team Goes Through Them! (Part II)

The first part of this post discussed the first two stages of team development:

  • Stage 1: Forming
  • Stage 2: Storming

This post will cover the remaining three stages:

  • Stage 3: Norming
  • Stage 4: Performing
  • Stage 5: Adjourning

Stage 3: Norming

When the team moves into the “norming” stage, they are beginning to work more effectively as a team. They are no longer focused on their individual goals, but rather are focused on developing a way of working together (processes and procedures). They respect each other’s opinions and value their differences. They begin to see the value in those differences on the team. Working together as a team seems more natural. In this stage, the team has agreed on their team rules for working together, how they will share information and resolve team conflict, and what tools and processes they will use to get the job done. The team members begin to trust each other and actively seek each other out for assistance and input. Rather than compete against each other, they are now helping each other to work toward a common goal. The team members also start to make significant progress on the project as they begin working together more effectively.

In this stage, the team leader may not be as involved in decision making and problem solving since the team members are working better together and can take on more responsibility in these areas. The team has greater self-direction and is able to resolve issues and conflict as a group. On occasion, however, the team leader may step in to move things along if the team gets stuck. The team leader should always ensure that the team members are working collaboratively and may begin to function as a coach to the members of the team.

Stage 4: Performing

In the “performing” stage, teams are functioning at a very high level. The focus is on reaching the goal as a group. The team members have gotten to know each other, trust each other and rely on each other.

Not every team makes it to this level of team growth; some teams stop at Stage 3: Norming. The highly performing team functions without oversight and the members have become interdependent. The team is highly motivated to get the job done. They can make decisions and problem solve quickly and effectively. When they disagree, the team members can work through it and come to consensus without interrupting the project’s progress. If there needs to be a change in team processes – the team will come to agreement on changing processes on their own without reliance on the team leader.

In this stage, the team leader is not involved in decision making, problem solving or other such activities involving the day-to-day work of the team. The team members work effectively as a group and do not need the oversight that is required at the other stages. The team leader will continue to monitor the progress of the team and celebrate milestone achievements with the team to continue to build team camaraderie. The team leader will also serve as the gateway when decisions need to be reached at a higher level within the organization.

Even in this stage, there is a possibility that the team may revert back to another stage. For example, it is possible for the team to revert back to the “storming” stage if one of the members starts working independently. Or, the team could revert back to the “forming” stage if a new member joins the team. If there are significant changes that throw a wrench into the works, it is possible for the team to revert back to an earlier stage until they are able to manage through the change.

Stage 5: Adjourning

In the “adjourning” stage the project is coming to an end and the team members are moving off into different directions. This stage looks at the team from the perspective of the well-being of the team rather than from the perspective of managing a team through the original four stages of team growth.

The team leader should ensure that there is time for the team to celebrate the success of the project and capture best practices for future use. (Or, if it was not a successful project – to evaluate what happened and capture lessons learned for future projects.) This also provides the team the opportunity to say good-bye to each other and wish each other luck as they pursue their next endeavor. It is likely that any group that reached Stage 4: Performing will keep in touch with each other as they have become a very close knit group and there will be sadness at separating and moving on to other projects independently.

Continued…Example of a Team Moving Through the Five Stages

In the first part of our story, we covered the background and team member information and learned a little bit about the team’s challenges in Stage 1: Forming and Stage 2: Storming.

Let’s continue our story….

All is Going Smoothly (Stage 3: Norming)

The team has now been working together for nearly 3 months. There is definitely a sense of teamwork among the group. There are few arguments and disagreements that can’t be resolved among the team. They support each other on the project – problem solving issues, making decisions as a team, sharing information and ensuring that the ground rules put in place for the team are followed.

Additionally, the team members are helping each other to grow and develop their skills. For example, Ameya has worked closely with Sarah to teach her many of the skills he has learned in database design and development and she has been able to take the lead on accomplishing some of the components of their aspect of the project.

Overall, the team members are becoming friends. They enjoy each other’s company – both while working on the project and after hours via communicating on email, via instant messaging, on Twitter, or over the telephone.

Significant Progress is Made! (Stage 4: Performing)

The team is now considered a “high performing team.” It wasn’t easy getting to this stage but they made it! They are working effectively as a group – supporting each other and relying on the group as a whole to make decisions on the project. They can brainstorm effectively to solve problems and are highly motivated to reach the end goal as a group. When there is conflict on the team – such as a disagreement on how to go about accomplishing a task – the group is able to work it out on their own without relying on the team leader to intervene and make decisions for them. The more junior members – Donna and Sarah – have really developed their skills with the support and help of the others. They have taken on leadership roles for some components of the project.

Sandra checks in with the team – praising them for their hard work and their progress. The team celebrates the milestones reached along the way. When necessary, Sandra provides a link from the team to the executives for decisions that need to come from higher up or when additional support is needed.

The project is on time and within budget. Milestones are being met – some are even ahead of schedule. The team is pleased with how well the project is going along, as is Sandra and the executives of the organization.

Time to Wrap Up (Stage 5: Adjourning)

The project has ended. It was a huge success! The internal customer is pleased and there is definitely an improvement in how the company supports its clients. It has been a great 8 months working together…with some ups and downs of course. Each of the individuals on the project will be moving to other projects within the organization, but no one is going to be on the same project. They will miss working with each other but have vowed to remain friends and keep in touch on a personal level – hopefully to work together again soon!

The team has gotten together in the New York office to discuss the project, including documenting best practices and discussing what worked effectively and what they would improve upon given the chance to do it again. Sandra has taken the team out to dinner. They are joined by the project sponsor and some other executives who are extremely pleased with the end result.

The End!

This is a simplistic view of a team working through the five stages of team development. I hope it provides some benefit to you.

Remember that at any time this team could revert back to a previous stage. Let’s assume that another individual joins the team – the team will revert back to the “forming” stage as they learn how to work with the new team member; reestablishing team guidelines, finding their way again, and learning how to work cohesively as a team. Or, let’s assume that Mohammed slips back into his old ways of keeping to himself and not sharing information with the team – this may cause the team to revert back to the “storming” stage.


It is important to remember that every team – regardless of what the team is working on – will follow these stages of team development. It is the job of the team leader to help see the team through these stages; to bring them to the point where they are working as effectively as possible toward a common goal.

I’d love to hear your team stories! Please share in the Comments field below.


The Team Handbook, 3rd Edition (Scholtes, Joiner, Streibel), Publisher: Oriel

Note: This book is a fantastic resource for all teams!

Encyclopedia of Informal Education:

Managing the Project Team (Vijay Verma), Publisher: PMI

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