Teamwork makes the dream work…..John C Maxwell
Understanding group dynamics is useful knowledge for anyone who has or will in future work with other people. Even more so for a manager or a person in a position of leadership in any area or aspect of their lives. Bruce Tuckman’s group development theoretical model (1965), provides great context and understanding through it’s universally applicable stages of forming, storming, norming and then performing. As no matter the purpose, goal, location, age or socio-economic background of the group, members will need to navigate the aforementioned necessary stages in order to meet targets, objectives and deliver results.
My experience of climbing a mountain under unusual circumstances, serves as a useful application case study of Tuckman’s initial four stage theory. Typically in the forming introductory stage, there is caution, anxiety and excitement amongst the group. Members look for acceptance, seek to understand project goals, how the task will be accomplished as well as each other.
Some groups never progress past the storming phase due to conflict, competition and misunderstandings. Arguments, tension and challenges to management authority are commonplace at this stage and some members quit or become withdrawn. Managers/leaders may need to step in to quell dissension and disintegration of the team.
At the ‘norming’ stage the team may regress back to the storming phase from time to time, though on the whole, there are respected ground rules, boundaries and cohesion. Leadership is shared, feedback is constructive and individual contributions are recognised by the team as beneficial for all.
If a team manages to make it as far as the performance phase, members are highly motivated, use their initiative with very little supervision or no management required. The high performance team are even willing to go the extra mile to accomplish goals and are successful in completing objectives. The team can adapt to change and respond well to unforeseen challenges. This is a productive and efficient team whom now have an affinity for one another.
I had little or no relationship with the majority of the group prior to that eventful day, as we were from different backgrounds, ages and I even had a bit of a language barrier with one of the team. However, in order to successfully achieve our shared goal of getting off the mountain alive and unhurt, we all had to work as a team. This meant unequivocally working through Tuckman’s ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’ group development stages. As I had no option of quitting, changing teams or the luxury of bringing in preferred people. Therefore being able to get through that experience was a great learning and development, character-building opportunity for me in respect of being adaptable, working with different types of personalities, working through different issues, improving communication skills, persevering under pressure and of course trusting in God.