In 1965 Dr. Bruce Tuckman published an article titled “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups” where he focused on the interpersonal relationships of the group members and the impact on task activities (Bonebright, 2009). Within that article, Tuckman hypothesized the stages of group development now known as Tuckman’s Model.
Tuckman’s model, originally comprised of the first four stages, is a theory of group development or evolution. The fifth stage was added in 1977, several years after the original concept was developed (Bonebright, 2009).
“…it remains largely unacknowledged that the model has been generalized well beyond its original framework.” – Denise Bonebright, 2009
The Five Stages of Group Development
Forming describes the initial development of the group where the group is brand new and the members have had very little prior interaction with each other as a functioning team. The group may set official or unofficial ground rules dictating boundaries for the group members. The group members may initially be nice and cordial with each other, they are in the honeymoon stage.
In the second stage, the group may become a little less friendly with each other. Interpersonal issues may arise as some group members wanted more control and others wanted to work on different tasks within the project. Some members may even become openly hostile if left uncontrolled. This is a phase about resisting the formation of the group and the structure that is beginning to develop.
In Norming, the group begins to show signs of unity. The structural resistance has begun to wane as the group members become more comfortable with each other. Conflicts may have been settled and/or compromise may have been reached. The group members are figuring out how to work with each other; the group is normalizing.
The conflict should still exist, but it should be healthier and more productive in the Performing stage of group development. The team’s productivity should be increasing and perhaps friendships in the group are being formed. The team roles become more fluid as the group members work more cohesively as a single unit.
The Adjourning phase is the final stage of team development. It is the closing phase. The team is wrapping things up and members are being recognized for their contribution to the group.
The Limitations to Tuckman’s Model
Tuckman’s model was created for (and based on) small groups, and at the time of its creation, virtual / distributed groups were nearly non-existent – or at least not able to work together as easily and frequently as they are today.
Tuckman identified additional limitations pertaining to the literature review he based the model on. The literature overrepresented therapy-group environments (Bonebright, 2009). Later studies found that groups outside of therapy largely fit within the 5-Stages, although variations exist within the exact definition of “Storming” and that the “Storming” stage is typically not as clearcut and defined outside of therapy group settings (Bonebright, 2009).
Additional limitations have been identified through further analysis of the model. Rickards and Moger (2000) noted that the model lacks a complete explanation of how groups change over time. In addition, they identified two significant concerns relating to task performance. The first is that the model fails to address the effects of team development on creativity in problem solving. The second concern is that the model does not discuss either failure to achieve success in task performance or the ability to show outstanding performance. They ask two significant questions: first, what if the storm stage never ends, and second, what is needed to exceed performance norms? –Denise Bonebright, 2009
Movement between the stages is not a guaranteed linear progression. Actual work groups may move into the Storming stage and never make it into Performing before Adjourning.
Other limitations are known, most revolve around the need for more study to better refine the Tuckman Model.
It seems that primarily the 5-stages of Team Development exist within smaller sized groups, they are just a bit more fluid when it comes to the workplace and groups require a deeper understanding than the simplified Tuckman model would suggest. It can be beneficial knowing and utilizing the Tuckman model, but recognizing and learning more about its limitations should be considered.
Bonebright, Denise (2009). 40 years of storming: a historical review of Tuckman’s model of small group development. Retrieved From https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/31737377/review_of_tuckmans_model.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1555376608&Signature=NB%2FwV9bCw%2B2NngfpKJgiTXHslEw%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DReview_of_tuckmans_model.pdf
Wilson, Carol (2010). Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming, & Performing Team Development Model. Retrieved From http://sst7.org/media/BruceTuckman_Team_Development_Model.pdf