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The Five Stages of Team Development and the Role of the Project Manager

The Five Stages of Team Development and the Role of the Project Manager

The first four stages of the team development model was proposed and developed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. In 1977, Tuckman teamed up with Mary Ann Jensen and added the 5th stage – adjourning.

Every team goes through the five stages of team development; there are no exceptions. Regardless of whether a team is working on a small, simple initiative or a large, complex global initiative, the team will progress through the five stages.

What’s important for the project manager is to understand the five stages and how to manage the team through the stages so that they can work more effectively as a team sooner rather than later, thereby making progress on the project tasks earlier on in the project launch.

Let’s look at the role of the project manager in each stage, as well as explore each stage in more detail:

Forming: In this stage the team members are testing each other and the project manager and exploring where they fit in to the project. Team members are worried about how they fit in with the others and how their capabilities and skills compare. They are looking to the project manager for clarity and direction.

Your role as the project manager: Be very clear about the team goals and project goals and provide clear direction on the project. The project manager must work with the team to establish team norms for working together.

Storming: In the Storming stage, there are struggles for power and to determine how the team will work together. In this stage, differences of opinion are common and the team is trying to determine how to work together effectively, what the rules are and how to resolve differences. The team competes for their ideas to be heard and implemented.

Your role as the project manager:  Help the team to get through this stage by ensuring they listen to each other, understand each other’s point of view and respect their differences. They all bring a unique perspective to the project and will all have ideas to share. Facilitate conversations in team meetings to keep the team moving in the right direction.

Norming: The individuals are beginning to see how they form a team, how to work together effectively and have set rules and group norms to work by. They have learned how to resolve their differences of opinion and are becoming much more comfortable with each other, trusting each other to get the job done.

Your role as the project manager: When the team is in the norming stage, the project manager should be less involved in every day team decision making and problem solving since the team members are working well together and take on responsibility in these areas. Continue to ensure the team resolves conflicts quickly and continues to work collaboratively; stepping in as needed to ensure the team keeps moving in the right direction.

Performing: The team is performing consistently at a high level. They are focused on reaching the project goals as a team. The individual does not exist, the team members are interdependent. They can solve problems on their own and do not rely on the project manager for day-to-day oversight of the group.

Your role as the project manager: The project manager serves as a gateway between the project team and the stakeholders, helping to get decisions made when a decision needs to be made at a higher level within the organization.

Adjourning: When the team is done with the project, there is a feeling of loss about having to move on to other projects. This is particularly common with very high performing teams. They have learned how to work together effectively and will miss the interactions.

Your role as the project manager: Ensure the time to celebrate the project’s success, capture lessons learned and share and capture best practices for future projects. Even a small gathering for dinner or drinks after work or meeting for coffee in the cafeteria is a welcome opportunity for the team members who have worked hard to reach their goal.

Your ability as a project manager to facilitate the team through the stages ensures that you have a high performing team as quickly as possible to meet the project’s objectives. As a project manager, you must learn to guide your team effectively – providing strong guidance and direction early on and letting the team solve their own problems and resolve differences as they move through the stages.

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