Teamwork is becoming an increasing element of all areas of our lives and every team we are part of will be different to teams we have previously experienced. Teams are formed because they can achieve much more than individuals alone and can also be fun and supportive. When a new team is formed it takes time before its members can perform effectively – it just doesn’t happen overnight.

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with the five key stages through which teams move. They are:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing
  5. Adjourning

By managing and supporting your team through these stages it is possible to increase its performance. Doing so may take patience on your behalf, but it will be well worth the effort and, ultimately, will make your work as a leader more productive.


Tuckman’s five stages of teamwork

1. Forming
  • The team meets for the first time.
  • Members learn about the opportunity/challenge the team is facing.
  • Team members are often extra polite to each other as they get to know each other, but often they are very focused on themselves.
  • Roles and responsibilities have often not been agreed.
  • Leaders have to direct the group to manage the dichotomy between team members who want to ‘get on with the task’ and those who want to clarify and plan further.

Tip to leaders: Take time to direct the team and clarify requirements.

2. Storming
  • Different ideas compete for consideration.
  • The team considers solutions to perceived challenges and the leadership model they will accept.
  • Team members may vie for influence and power in the group.
  • Decisions often don’t come quickly as relationships are tested and challenged.
  • As a leader your leadership may be challenged.
  • The ways in which the team will work start to be identified.
  • Some team members may be overwhelmed at the amount of work to be done while others may question the goals.
  • Some teams never leave this stage and it is a common point of failure for teams.
  • Some team members will focus on minutiae to evade real issues.
  • Successful teams will be able to resolve real issues.
  • Leaders need to remain accessible but directive in terms of decision-making, professional behaviour and emotional intelligence.

Tip to leaders: Stay positive in the face of challenges and, if needed, explain the various stages of teamwork in order to facilitate understanding of what is being experienced.

3. Norming
  • Agreement and consensus form within the team which responds well to the leader’s facilitation.
  • Team members often work through this stage by agreeing on rules, values, professional behaviour, shared methods, working tools and even taboos.
  • The team members can be expected to take more responsibility for making decisions and for their professional behavior.
  • Commitment and unity are strong.
  • As new tasks come up, the team may lapse into typical storming stage behaviour, but this eventually dies out.

Tip to leaders: Step back a little and let the team develop proactive solutions. Running a team-building event may be of great benefit here.

4. Performing
  • Some teams will reach the performing stage. These high-performing teams function as a unit by finding ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision.
  • The team is more strategically aware. It knows clearly why it is doing what it is doing.
  • As leader, you are able to delegate much of the work and can concentrate on developing team members. Being part of the team at this stage feels “easy” compared with earlier on.
  • There is a focus on the achievement of goals

Tip to leaders: Delegate where it makes sense to do so.

5. Adjourning
  • No team lasts forever and the break-up of a team needs to be planned to ensure organisational, team and individual goals are managed.
  • Some team members may have entered their comfort zone and may resist the break up of the team while others will be ready for the next challenge.

Tip to leaders: Celebrate the team’s achievements. Ensure that people leave the team on a positive note.


Mind Tools Ltd, Essential skills for an excellent career, 1995-2009, viewed 9 July, 2009.

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, viewed 9 July, 2009.