One of the most familiar management models is Bruce Tuckman’s model of Group Development – sometimes known in the US as the ‘Orming Model’.
A Summary of Tuckman in under 100 words
The team comes together in anticipation, enthusiasm, and uncertainty about their roles and their colleagues.
As they get to know their colleagues and leader, disputes arise over direction, leadership and status.
The team settles into productive work and establishes ways of working together.
Team members are comfortable with one another and understand their roles, so the team gets loads done.
The project comes to an end and team members go their separate ways.
One of the commonest questions I get asked is this:
‘Mike, I’m not complaining, but why didn’t my team storm? We all got on with it and moved quickly from Forming to Norming and even Performing.’
My usual first answer is that ‘teams will storm’. When the pressure for a new team to achieve quick results is lifted, the internal pressures will emerge and, albeit out of sequence, the team will storm.
This is the Nature of Models
A model can predict or explain, but the nature of a model is to simplify. This means that, by definition, it must be wrong sometimes! The better a model, the less frequently it is wrong.
But neither this observation, nor my assertion that ‘teams will storm’ explains why they sometimes don’t storm at the ‘right’ time, nor more so, why some teams do not storm at all – yes, my assertion could be wrong too.
The concept was first articulated by Debra Meyerson, Karl Weick and Roderick Kramer and is the subject of a chapter in the cross disciplinary review book, Trust in Organizations, edited by Kramer and Tom Tyler (1996). Sometimes teams come together rapidly and need to work together effectively without the time it normally takes to build trust.
In some circumstances, trust can be built quickly and this, I suggest, is what delays and even stops the Storming phase. In my earlier Pocketblog, I offered these six conditions:
- Presuming each team member has earned their place
- Trusting other people’s expertise and knowledge
- Creating shared goals and a shared recognition/reward scheme
- Defining a clear role for each person to play
- Focusing on tasks and actions
- Taking responsibility and acting responsively
Swift Trust emerges when people are willing to suspend their doubts and concerns about colleagues and just get on with a shared task. They focus on their goals, their roles and the time constraint they are under.
Leadership Role in Creating Swift Trust
Leaders can help foster Swift Trust in seven ways:
- Building a great first impression in the earliest days – this will have a big influence on the team
- Building relationships from the outset and learning about team members
- Swiftly and constructively dealing with concerns and issues as they arise
- Creating a feeling that they are present even when they are elsewhere
- Encouraging frequent team communication
- Using private methods rather than public forums to deal with under-performance
- Recognising and celebrating achievements frequently
So here’s the deal
Your team doesn’t have to storm, but if you want to avoid it, you have to build trust: swiftly.