Common team highs and lows
Teams generally go through a series of distinct ‘stages' during their lifecycle. The following five stages are based on a model by Bruce Wayne Tuckman. There are suggestions to help a team transition smoothly through each stage. Perhaps you could use them as a basis for discussion when working in a team.
In this stage people are uncertain and anxious about the boundaries and their place in the team. There may also be a lot of excitement as everything is new and fun. Attempts are made to establish team roles and responsibilities and understand the overall goals. There may be concern for individual objectives.
- be clear about team goals
- agree individual objectives
- establish communication strategies
- create a project plan that includes a communications strategy, identifies roles and responsibilities and select a project management method
- spend some time in team building activities, encouraging team members to get to know one another.
Most likely stage when conflict will arise as disagreements emerge over task and/or strategic issue. Relationships are the focus of this stage of the process. Levels of trust may be low and members may be reluctant to be open and honest.
- continue team building activities
- establish a conflict resolution strategy
- promote open and honest communication. Ensure all members' views are being heard, not just those of the most extrovert members
- resolve conflicts that arise promptly or team members may become frustrated or disillusioned.
A smoothing over period, where relationships are good and members are all working to agreed strategies. Good progress is made towards achieving project goals. The focus is on ‘getting the job done'; members begin to trust the process and each other. Open and honest communication exists.
- maintain group input into decision making process
- perform evaluations of individual and team effectiveness
- aim to maintain motivation and momentum
- leadership style can be one of facilitation with greater degrees of delegation.
Team members strive to make the most of team relationships and effective working practices to complete the project goals. If all has gone well to this stage, members have learned to trust one another. The focus turns to self development, using the learning gained from participating in the project and team working. The team flourishes and targets are reached regularly and effectively.
- Success to this point results in a state of synergy existing
- management may take the form of coaching as the team dynamics operate smoothly
- celebrate successful completion of milestones to maintain momentum
- this is the point to reap the benefits of knowledge creation, not just transfer.
However, remember that team development is a never-ending task. Encourage constructive feedback.
This is the period prior to the completion of the project, when team members will be going their separate ways. There may be some sadness and uncertainty around.
- this is an important part of the process. It is a time to reflect on what went well, what didn't and identify improvements for the future. All team members should be encouraged to participate fully
- provide an opportunity for team members to share their feelings about the whole process and the end of the project
- ending on a positive note will enable members to move on quickly and effectively.
(adapted from Bruce Tuckmann's work as part of the ‘Managing Research Projects' project, Researcher Development Initiative, ESRC, 2008)
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