Less Storming More Performing!

Photo of a team collaborating around a long, wooden desk.

For the last half century, a commonly used model ‘Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development’ has suggested that newly formed teams pass through a series of stages before they start performing. The model breaks onboarding down to four stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing. At 5 Dynamics, we have a contrarian response to F/S/N/P: “Who needs it?!”

The model sprung from the mind of Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Then at the Naval Medical Research Institute, he found through research on newly formed ships’ crews that in half of the instances the teams went through a “storming” phase of various lengths, during which teammates thrashed around with boundaries, roles, personality conflicts, doubts about leadership, and the like.

What good does this do?! Not every baby goes through the Terrible Two’s. Not every teenager is out until 5 a.m. wrecking the family car. So on the way to maturity, the team doesn’t necessarily need to go through interpersonal darkness and thrashing to get to the bright sunlight of fabulous collaboration and results.

Storming wastes time and money. It also can leave scars and hostility that may never heal. So it makes sense to engineer situations where the team doesn’t storm. At 5 Dynamics we help teams do just that. We teach new teams to focus on three areas early on:

  1. Clarity: During storming, people try to sort out boundaries on their own, and this leads to squabbles that might not be resolved. Clarity up front eliminates the need for fighting.
  2. Energetic Knowledge: What are the work preferences, learning styles, and values of the teammates? How can they use the 5 Dynamics language to come to agreements instead of fighting? How do they complement and support each other? What are individuals’ goals and values?
    • When we are called to help form new teams, we assist them in answering these questions. Approached this way, there’s no room at the table for emotionality or personal (dis)likes. This douses the gunpowder in Tuckman’s “personal issues” and “emotional responses in the work sphere.”
  3. Behavioral Norms:If there are no rules of the game, then anything can be fair. Or foul. When onboarding a new team, it’s a requirement to make norms explicit and specific. For example, “Do not take others’ behavior personally” would be a great norm for teams to avoid storming. Anyone who falls into this trap is violating a norm and would have no excuse. Instead, the person should directly inquire about the observed behavior. No excuses or outs.

5 Dynamics provides a powerful catalyst for jumping from forming to performing because it is more than an assessment. It’s a methodology to be used daily in team functions, from meetings to conversations to project work. Our customers have found this method invaluable for onboarding traditional, matrix, virtual, and distributed teams.

So here’s the bottom line:
_Who needs storming?

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