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The Boomer Bulletin - 2015
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The Four Phases of Teamwork

Posted By Jon Hubbard, Tuesday, October 13, 2015

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Henry Ford

The concept of teamwork is generally understood throughout organizations of all purpose and size. However, how team members think about teamwork can vary drastically and depends on their educational understanding of the function of teams. As you are aware, there are many best practices, resources and methodologies organizations use to improve how their teams work together more efficiently and effectively. Without a cohesive, organization-wide understanding of teamwork, individuals within an organization won’t be able to fully benefit from working as a team.  It is in an organizations best interest to develop a culture of teamwork.

One of the most popular theoretical frameworks of teamwork is Bruce Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development Model. Tuckman created this model in 1965 when working with the U.S. Navy. In addition to observing small group behavior, Tuckman studied over 50 articles on team development and identified trends that were common in all of his research.  In this model, Tuckman identifies four stages teams go through and his idea was that if a team understands the stage they are in they will be more likely to work together successfully. A team can revert back to a previous stage if goals or team members change. These stages are Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.


When a new team comes together, this begins the Forming stage. In this stage, the priority is for team members to get to know one another. This process could happen through conversation, team building exercises or group introductions.  As a team begins to “form,” they may find themselves politely defining goals, objectives and the purpose of the team. At this point conflict avoidance is high and members are trying to “feel things out.” There is no set time for how long this phase lasts as it is dependent on the size of the team, frequency of meetings and the familiarity each individual has with one another.


The Storming phase is when team members begin to push back against the decisions made in the Forming stage. Questions regarding the mission, goals, objectives and techniques of the team will be discussed. Team members are starting to feel comfortable enough with one another to bring up opposing ideas and thoughts. If a boundary was set in the Forming stage, it will be tested in the Storming stage. For many teams the Storming phase is the breaking point. Authority is challenged and conflict can arise. Because of this the Storming phase is often the most stressful stage for team members. It’s not uncommon for team members to feel overwhelmed during this stage.


After the Storming phase comes the Norming phase. This stage is where teams “start to hit their stride” and begin developing strong relationships with one another. The strengths of each team member is being recognized and socializing outside of the normal team setting may begin. Open dialogues with constructive criticism are beginning and trust is being gained among all members. As this stage progresses the individuals will become more committed to the team’s goals. It’s not uncommon for teams to fall from the Norming stage back into the Storming stage if the team changes, goals change or a major unanticipated occurrence happens.


Once a team hits the Performing phase the team has “hit its stride.” Team members find it easy to work with another and everyone is focused on the team’s goals. There is little friction and leadership can begin to concentrate on developing the individual team members.

Evaluating a team to Tuckman’s models can be helpful in determining the strengths of your team and how to best develop your team. It can be a great benchmark to both know where your team might have some dysfunction as well as where your team is at in the stages of development. Having this knowledge will better equip teams to meet their goals.

How the Five Star Client Service methodology can help

Moving through the four stages of team development is much easier if the team has a common understanding of what it means to work well with one another.  One methodology known as Five Star Client Service reframes the concept of teamwork as “internal client service.” Internal client service can be defined as “the service we provide fellow employees and other departments within our own organizations, as well as our suppliers and anyone else with whom we work to get our jobs done.” In other words, internal client service is referring to the level of service offered to team members and coworkers.  It is viewing team members and coworkers first as clients. Typically, when the phrase “client service” is used, it’s referring to external clients.

As part of the Five Star Client Service program, we walk firms through the 7 keys to creating a Five Star Client Service culture. The principles are based on the same principles Five Star hotels and restaurants use to achieve high-quality service. If your firm focuses on the 7 areas, you will begin to see a cultural shift happen and your firm’s level of client service will rise.


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