The conclusions in Bruce Tuckman’s ‘Developmental sequence in small groups’ are among the best known management models. In it, Tuckman proposed that groups go through four stages of development: forming, storming, norming and performing.
Later, he and Mary Ann Jensen wrote a follow-up article, ‘Stages of small group development revisited’, in which they proposed a fifth stage, adjourning. We summarised these stages earlier this year, and looked at why teams don’t always go through the storming phase.
Tuckman and Jensen’s critical review in 1977 was just the first re-analysis of Tuckman’s original 1965 paper. As recently as 201, there was a wide review article: ‘40 years of storming: a historical review of Tuckman’s model of small group development’ by Denise Bonebright, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. In it, Ms Bonebright concludes that there are new theories that are ‘exponentially broader and deeper than Tuckman’s original model. They provide detailed discussion of many aspects of group dynamics from forming through adjourning.’
These theories examine a range of other factors, and yet they do not
‘provide the same breadth of application. HRD scholars and practitioners can learn something from a model that has proved valuable for almost 45 years. The utility of providing a simple, accessible starting point for conversations about key issues of group dynamics has not diminished.’
Can we extend Tuckman’s Model?
There are two principal extensions to Tuckman’s model that give valuable insights, yet do not add unnecessarily to its complexity. We will look at the more sophisticated early in the new year, and tackle the simpler, commoner one here.
Are you getting tired at the end of a long year? Is your team getting stale and bored?
A lot of management trainers add an extra phase beyond performing: ‘yawning’. This recognises that a team, once formed and into performing stage, can become stale. It is a teaching aid as much as an extension of the model, to highlight the importance for a team leader to keep the team fresh and challenged – in both the task and relationships dimensions – if you are to maintain high performance.
It is also a reminder that, if your team slips from its high performance levels, this may be what is happening.
Some Management Pocketbooks you Might Like
The Tuckman model and its variants are described in The Management Models Pocketbook.
You might also like: