NEWSLETTER
Talent Management
Team development: How a group becomes a team

Table of contents

Team development – from group to team

Why team development ?
When employees are grouped together to form a department or to perform a common task, this is first and foremost merely a group of individuals, but by no means a team. A team has to develop first. The people in the group first have to grow together as a team. This includes the group members getting to know each other, finding their role within the team and developing conflict management in order to be able to work together. This process varies depending on the composition of the group, but similar patterns emerge in all groups. Bruce W. Tuckman, an American psychologist, observed 4 phases of team development and developed the so-called “Tuckman phase model” on this basis in 1965. In later years, he added a fifth phase.
Managers have a major influence on the development of teams. Ideally, they create favorable conditions and promote the development process. To do this, it is useful to recognize what phase your team is currently in and what it currently needs. We show you the 5 phases here.

“A team is a small group of people whose skills complement each other and who are committed to a common cause, common performance goals and a common approach to work, and who hold each other accountable”
(Source: Katzenbach/Smith 1993, p.70).

Team development phase 1

Forming contact

The team
You have probably already had the experience of facing a task with a group of people you do not yet know. Do you remember what they thought, felt and did? Surely you and the other group members wanted to get your bearings first.
When it comes to collaboration, there are a lot of questions at the beginning: What is the situation like? Who are the others? How is the balance of power distributed? What is expected of me? How do people treat each other here? What are the rules? How are responsibilities and powers distributed? Who takes on which role? What is the best way to behave?
And we are also looking for answers regarding the work assignment: What exactly should we do; what are our goals? How will we implement it? What do we need for this?
The team members carefully feel their way towards each other. People are polite to each other and try to pick up as much information and signals from others as possible. Feelers are cautiously put out to find out what works and what doesn’t. It’s better to keep a low profile, because it’s important to make a good impression on the others first.
The tour
The future team needs orientation. The management should support it in this. At this stage, it is more important to concentrate on forming the team rather than on the actual task. People need time and space to have experiences with each other. Ideally, the management establishes conducive framework conditions, respectful and open manners and provides a clear definition of the task, the rules and the structure. If this is the case, the team can go through this phase more quickly and safely in order to be able to work together quickly. A joint kick-off at the start of a project is a good way to make rapid progress in this phase of team development.

Team development phase 2

Storming conflict

The team
The group members have understood how things work. They have gained an appreciation of the situation they find themselves in, how to deal with each other and how to assess the leadership. The group members begin to express opinions, establish relationships and defend their own interests. This phase of team building is often subconsciously about negotiating rank and role. Seemingly objective positions are therefore sometimes vehemently defended. You also notice what you don’t like about others. Differences come to light and tensions increase. However, not only the team colleagues, but also the team management, the goals and tasks are critically scrutinized. There is unrest and instability, sometimes even an aggressive mood. The aim of this phase is to reach a general consensus on roles, tasks and objectives. If this is not successful, it is likely that power struggles will hinder or even block work processes.
The tour
Leadership also plays a major role here. The aim is to find out what is important to the team members in order to create a basis for negotiations and conflict resolution. The group needs opportunities to find the roles of the individuals. It is important to address conflicts openly, to talk to each other instead of about each other, and thus to encourage the clarification of differences in a targeted manner. It should have an influence on the manner of the confrontation so that it can take place in a goal-oriented manner and injuries are minimized as much as possible.

Team development phase 3

Norming contract

The team
The clearing thunderstorm is over. Through the previous storming phase, the group members have learned how to resolve conflicts. The team members find their roles, rules and behavioral norms, common routines and habits develop as well as a sense of unity. You can better accept the idiosyncrasies of others. On this basis, the team-to-be can start working on the actual task. Information and thoughts are exchanged openly. Cooperation develops.
The tour
The management should ensure that active feedback is given and that common rules of conduct are made transparent. It is important that it strengthens the feeling of unity that has developed and creates space for exchange.

Team development phase 4

Performing cooperation

The team
Here we go. Once common standards have been agreed and cooperation has been established, relationships stabilize. Collaboration has begun: the team is now ready for action, because the energy that previously flowed into group-dynamic clarification processes can now focus on the work tasks. People trust each other, work hand in hand; synergy effects are created. Conflicts are addressed and resolved openly and constructively. The level of identification with the team and its goals is high. Together, the team optimizes existing structures. The aim of this phase is to work efficiently.
The tour
The management should maintain an overview, but can now leave the team to organize itself and focus its attention on the outside.

Team development phase 5

Adjourning

The team
Originally, the Performing phase was the fourth and last in Tuckman’s phase model for team development. In 1977, he added a fifth phase to his model: Adjourning, which is also known as Mourning. As the word mourning suggests, this is the phase of saying goodbye and letting go. The stronger the team cohesion was, the deeper the farewell is felt.
The tour
The management should moderate this process and create opportunities to prepare for the dissolution: Retrospection, reflection and gratitude help. Ideally, the guide will organize a farewell ceremony and a thank you.
The order of the phases may vary, and there may even be regressions to previous phases, but each of the phases is passed through at some point. If the team changes because new group members are integrated or members leave the team, the phases often start all over again. The same can also happen if a new task is assigned to the team or roles within the team change.
Do you have questions about team development? Talk to us!
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The authors

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Annika Semmer
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Jonas
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Michelle Templin
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Susanne Grätsch
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