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Improve your team’s performance - faster!
July 04, 2017

Easy, practical and powerful Team Tool

This is a VERY simple and quick exercise you can do with your direct reports – that will help you move your team (the team you lead) towards high performance much faster.

All you want to do is to use the “4 Phases Model” – also known as the “Tuckman Model”

In 1965, Bruce W. Tuckman (1) published an article that became a classic because it is very easy to understand and very practical to use – giving team leaders an assessment tool to help them improve the performance of their teams.

This Model describes the stages that most teams go through on their way to high performance:

  • 1) Forming
  • 2) Storming
  • 3) Norming
  • 4) Performing

    Later Mr. Tuckman added a fifth stage, "adjourning" also called "mourning" – when the team ceases to exist.

    The 4 Phases Model in a NUTSHELL:

    Forming is when your team is new, roles and responsibilities aren't clear – and everybody is reserved and polite.

    Storming is when you start interacting with each other, you become aware that you have different working styles – and conflict begins to arise.

    Norming is when team members begin to know one another, people start to resolve their differences – and team agreements begin to become part of your team's culture.

    Performing is when your team's structures and process are clear, you as the leader delegate much of the work – and your team kicks into high performance.

    Here is a simple ANALOGY ...

  • Forming = infant
  • Storming = adolescent
  • Norming = young adult
  • Performing = mature adult

    Here is another one ...

  • Forming = learning about each other
  • Storming = challenging each other
  • Norming = working with each other
  • Performing = working as one

    NOTE 1:

    The main ingredient to help your team move through these four stages is NOT time. Have you ever met a 40 year-old person who is still in the adolescence?

    It's the same phenomenon here. Not because your team has been together for years – it means that your team reached the "performing" stage.

    In my experience – the majority of teams never reach the performing stage – but rather – they use up their energy in the storming and the norming stages.

    The main ingredient to help your team move through these four stages is your competency – as the leader of your team – to build a high performance team.

    This "4 Phases Model" is a simple tool to help you do just that.

    NOTE 2:

    In practice, these four phases merge into one another and overlap – it's not like you cleanly jump from one phase to the next.

    NOTE 3:

    If your team were in the performing stage and a new team member joined in – your team would automatically go back to the forming stage.

    You would need to integrate this new team member into your team's culture – but this time you would move your team through these stages much faster.

    NOTE 4:

    My explanation of the 4 Phases here above is short and to the point – and good enough to help you use this model with your team.

    However – if you would like to learn more about each phase – just Google the term "Tuckman Model" and you will get a ton of options (including scholar papers).

    WHEN TO USE the 4 Phases Model:

    Use it at the beginning of any team's life.

    If you have been with the team that you lead for a while – use it right away. And after that – use it as often as appropriate.

    How often is appropriate? Whenever your team believes you need to do this exercise again.

    And if nobody believes you need to use it – do it at least every 12 months.

    These types of discussions are usually good for the team's performance.

    HOW TO USE the 4 Phases Model with your team:

    Basically – you use it as a team-assessment tool. Here is how ...


    You and your direct reports must be familiar with this simple Model.

    Take a few minutes to show it to them.


    Ask all of your team members to individually answer these two questions – without sharing their answers with the rest of the team:

    1) In which one of the four stages is our team? Is it in the forming stage, in the storming stage, in the norming stage, or in the performing stage?

    2) Why?


    Once you gave your direct reports a moment to come up with an answer - ask them to group together according to their answer.

    Those who believe your team is in the forming stage, group them together.

    Those who believe your team is in the storming stage, group them together.

    Those who believe your team is in the norming stage, group them together.

    Those who believe your team is in the performing stage, group them together.


    Now individual by individual – ask each group to voice out loud why they think your team is in such stage.

    You will obviously have contradicting perceptions - but this is the whole point of this discussion.

    This discussion is NOT about who is right and who is wrong. This is about perceptions – and ALL perceptions are equally valid.

    You must – as the leader of your team – facilitate this discussion in order to make explicit the different points of views.


    Now – facilitate a brainstorming session:

    You want to come up with ideas about what it is that you need to do as a team, in order to help the team to move forward on to the next stage.

    If most of you think you are already in the performing stage – still – try to come up with ideas to improve its performance even more.


    Whatever ideas you come up as a team – integrate them into your team’s daily habits.

    And start practicing them.



    Do this exercise with your team – and you will experience a quick difference in your team’s performance.

    You will not need more than one hour – but this one-hour will be a massive investment indeed.

    (1) "Developmental Sequence in Small Groups" by Bruce W. Tuckmam (Psychological Bulletin, Volume 63, Number 6, pages 384-399: June 1965).

    Questions? Feedback?
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    See you next month!
    Joseluis Romero - Publisher
    July 4, 2017. Copyright: All rights reserved
    I publish "Leader Newsletter" on the first Tuesday of every month
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