Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing: Team Development

Updated March 10, 2023

While group work is essential in many business sectors, it's rare for a team to be efficient in its original formation. The Tuckman Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model describes how a group of professionals progresses into a high-performance team. Understanding this model can help you overcome challenges to collaboration and quickly increase a team's efficiency.

In this article, we define the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model and discuss what a team can expect during each developmental stage.

What is Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing?

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing is a model that describes the development of groups and explains how they gradually become more efficient. Psychologist Bruce Tuckman coined the term in his 1965 article "Developmental Sequence in Small Groups" and uses four stages to indicate what type of behavior you can expect from team members over the lifespan of a group. Several of the stages include inherent conflict, but anticipating these challenges can make it easier for the group to solve issues between team members and stay focused on their goals.

Related: The 5 Project Management Process Groups (Plus 10 PMBOK Explained)

How do Tuckman's stages of team development work?

Each of Tuckman's four stages of development is unique and necessary to establish a fully functional and effective team. The four stages are:

1. Forming

In the forming stage, the group is just beginning to get to know one another. For the most part, team members are overly positive and polite. They're most likely hesitant to share any conflicting opinions and simply want to get to know one another before work begins. A few key elements of this stage include:

  • The team looks to the group leader for guidance.

  • The leader establishes roles and responsibilities or begins assessing the team for skills to later assign tasks.

  • The focus of any meetings is on establishing rapport within the group.

During the forming stage of group development, you can expect to discuss issues like these in meetings:

  • Information about each team member's background, interests and skills

  • The goals of the project

  • Rules and guidelines for effective teamwork

  • A timeline for the project

Related: How To Set Goals as a Team: Steps and Examples

2. Storming

In the storming stage of group development, team members become more comfortable and begin to share dissenting opinions or ideas with the group. During this stage, true personalities become clear and conflicts might arise. It's vital to remember that conflict is both necessary and expected when forming a new group or embarking on a new project. Normalizing conflict can help you, your teammates and the group leader respectfully and effectively solve any disagreements. Signs you're in the storming stage of group development include:

  • It's hard to come to a group consensus.

  • While the goals of the team become clearer, the specifics of how to achieve those goals are still unclear.

  • Conflicts over power and hierarchy are occurring.

Common discussions in group meetings during the storming phase might include:

  • Discussions about how to best approach the project

  • Conflicts over who should handle which aspect of the project

  • Questioning the authority of the group leader

Related: How To Handle Conflict With a Coworker

3. Norming

In the norming phase of group development, the team has resolved most, if not all, conflicts from the storming phase. The team's focus is on completing the project and each team member understands their role within the group at large. The group's hierarchy is clear, and all team members know to whom they should speak with any questions or concerns. Unity and cohesion are high, and the group is often able to resolve any uncertainties quickly and with little conflict. You'll know you're in the norming phase when:

  • The group members know what their roles are.

  • The team may meet up socially.

  • The team leader and any other group specialists are well respected.

  • The leader becomes more of a facilitator than a director.

During this phase, meetings are highly focused and may include discussions about items like:

  • Check-ins and updates from team members about their tasks

  • Evaluation of processes and procedures for maximum efficiency

  • Thoughtful questions and discussions about project goals

Related: 11 Meeting Etiquette Rules

4. Performing

In the performing phase of group development, the team tends to spend the majority of work time focused on individual tasks. Some meetings might still occur, but overall, the group knows what they need to do and how to do it. Often, the performing phase signals the conclusion of the project, since the team is now working effectively towards its completion. Signs your team is in the performing phase might include:

  • The team leader rarely needs to facilitate work or provide structure. Instead, the leader simply checks in to ensure the team members have all the resources they need.

  • Meetings are much less frequent and much shorter.

  • While conflict and disagreement may still occur, the team has practical and effective systems in place to quickly address them.

Group meetings might include the following:

  • Project updates

  • Brainstorming ideas to improve the project

  • Addressing any timeline or deadline constraints

Related: 18 Tips for Meeting Deadlines

Additional stages of group development

After Tuckman published his initial four stages of group development, other researchers established additional stages that some teams might see as they work towards their group goal. The most common three additional stages are:

1. Swarming

The swarming stage is most common in the software development sector. In a swarm stage, the whole team comes together to solve a single problem as one unit. Once the team has addressed the issue, the members disperse back to their own tasks. Swarming can happen between any of the four traditional stages, but it's most common between norming and performing.

Related: What Are the Pros and Cons of Group Work?

2. Re-norming

Very frequently, groups cycle through the storming and norming stages as the project transitions through phases. Some leaders like to refer to this as re-norming after the first instance of norming has already occurred because the later cycles of storming and norming are often much shorter than the first instance.

Related: How To Use the 5 Stages of Team Development

3. Adjourning or mourning

The adjourning or mourning stage is sometimes called the fifth stage of group development. For most teams, once the project is finished, the group disbands. When this happens, particularly if it's been a long-term project, team members might go through a period of sadness as their work structure dissipates and must be reestablished.

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