of Birth; 26/11/1968
For the purpose of my essay, I am
going to take a look and discuss one of the simplest but widely regarded and
respected theories on Group Development of recent times. This is one of the most popular and
influential theories on Group Development of our era. It is known as “Tuckman’s Stages of Group
Development” Bruce Tuckman’s ‘Stages for a Group’ online, https://www.toolshero.com/management/tuckman-stages-of-group-development. Accessed
19 Jan. 2018
Bruce Tuckman (Bruce Tuckman’s 1965). actually
described a 5 stage model but for the purpose of my essay I will take a look at
the first four stages that once established it can greatly assist in the
decision making and productivity within a group. The four stages are;
In my essay, I am going to take a look at how these
four stages related to my time on the Train the Trainer Course and also to look
at how they relate to my day to day work as an Operations manager in a
utilities company managing teams of employees.
I will look to see if there are similarities between both and if the
theories of the classroom are the same as that of the workplace. Can one simply transfer the ideology of one
situation to another and get the same results from a completely different
demographic. These are four concepts
that are so simple in their approach it is easy to see or understand why
someone who was not exposed to the concepts would not look for the traits
displayed by the team members.
On Day 1 of our Train the Trainer course we came
together as 8 unknown individuals from quite varied and diverse
backgrounds. None of us on the course
bar 2 of the other lads knew each other and to the best of my knowledge none of
the course participants had prior knowledge on Tuckman’s theories of Group
Development. What we did not know at the
time is that we were actually embarking on stage 1 of the four stages according
to Tuckman. We were on stage 1. As stated earlier, none of us knew others
apart from 2 lads so it is fair to say that course participants were a little
bit closed towards their new class colleagues.
An example would have been displayed on day 1 when the class tutor asked
us to break off into pairs with the person sitting opposite and by talking to
each other for a few minutes we then had to attempt to establish what kind of
learning style the other had. We had to
attempt to work out if they were Auditory, Visual or Kinaesthetic as a learner. We were obviously a little anxious towards
each other as we had just met and this exercise involved us opening up somewhat
about ourselves to a stranger. Tuckman
tells us that “it is considered normal to
be perhaps a little closed to or a little bit anxious about other members on
the course, such as whom they are and what they are like”. http://www.free-management-ebooks.com/faqld/development-02.htm, online Accessed 19 Jan.
on to tell us that the behaviour of an individual is driven by a desire to be
accepted by the other team members and to avoid conflict which will inevitably
result in serious issues being avoided, or put off, as team members concentrate
on non-confrontational or routine issues.
This can be disastrous for the progression of a team or group as the
reluctance to engage in and resolve areas of conflict means that the team
accomplishes very little and the underlying differences which have been brushed
aside will eventually surface and have to be addressed so the team is back to
square one again or at a stalemate. At this point it is about building
relationships within the group and clarifying the team’s mission”. http://www.free-management-ebooks.com/faqld/development-02.htm, online Accessed 19 Jan.
This was done in a relaxed and professional fashion
by the course tutor. The use of a
structured session plan for the lesson and presentations on the first morning
were in my opinion crucial. Again while
we were not aware of its significance at the time, the Ice-Breaker was a great
tool to aid with the breaking down of the little barriers that we
subconsciously put up to the other course participants. Within the first 2 hours one could already
sense that the participants were relaxing and warming to the other learners on
The course tutor brought the class of learners
through the forming stage with ease and while we were not aware of it at the
time…she facilitated us to break down the barriers and allowed us an insight
into the each other and what might make us tick as individuals. She outlined the task at hand for the next 6
weeks and how we would need to work cohesively and Gel as a unit or team to
face the challenges and opportunities supporting each other and also how we
might go about the task.
This type of planning is easily transferable to the
workplace and while maybe not in the guise of an ice breaker asking “what your
favourite food is”, it is my opinion that careful consideration of how to
introduce new members to the workplace and to quickly make them feel relaxed to
their new colleagues and to also make their new colleagues receptive to the new
member can aid in having the team settle into the Norming stage much
quicker and also onto the Performing stage.
The duration of the first stage can vary greatly
depending on a number of factors. Factor
1 could be the task itself and how clear is the induction to the
task. Is the task set out in clear and
easily followed steps so that a new learner or employee can follow the
steps? Factor 2 could relate to
the level of experience of the learner or employee in the task. Factor 3 could relate to how much
experience does the learner have in working in a team? In my workplace I can see examples of these
differences at play when a new member of staff may be introduced to the
operational team versus a new member of staff joining the administration
staff. Due to the vast differences in
tasks performed between the 2 groups, it always takes longer for the admin
staff to gel and the Storming phase will inevitably be considerably longer than
the operational team.
I very much like to think of myself as a “hands on”
manager. I don’t ask any employee to
perform any task that I won’t perform myself.
By me having this approach, I find it a lot easier to lead by example. By me doing the job with a new employee it helps
me to build healthy and positive relationships from the outset. I like to give clear instructions to all of
the operational staff especially as I find in my experience that these staff
members normally need clearer instructions and guidance to get the task or
tasks completed. These instructions
again must be clearly communicated and staff must be trained properly to
perform their tasks. It is important
that this training is structured and planned out very carefully to achieve the
desired learning outcome. All training
must be recorded and signed off on by both the trainer and the learner or
employee that the training has been received and understood. At this stage I believe it is important that
roles and responsibilities for tasks are clearly defined as this takes away any
future ambiguity going forward.
It is a constant balancing act as a manager to
ensure that the correct decisions are being made about tasks. I have built up a good team of both
operational and administration staff in the region that I have responsibility
for. Again, my management style is one
that empowers the individual to make decisions.
Once the employee is fully trained and clearly understands the
parameters of their roles, duties and responsibilities then they should be able
to make their own decisions. After all,
it is adults we are dealing with. By
clearly defining roles, duties and especially responsibilities, all staff
members should find they have an even balance of workload. Building good relationships with work
colleagues from the start and clearly defining responsibilities will help the
team perform to a higher level. We only
get one chance to induct or introduce a new staff member to our organisation so
it is vital that we invest the time required to build a good working
relationship with all of our work colleagues.
When it’s the honeymoon period as I like to call it
for a new employee everyone is eager and enthusiastic. However after we progress from the Forming stage and have now entered the Storming phase it is now that we see new
employees develop their ideas about how they would like to perform their tasks
and duties. This is exactly when Storming can take place. When the new employee decides to veer away
from the standard operating procedures, it is then that we see evidence of
conflict and even resentment between team members. An example of this in my industry might be as
employed by us as a Driver who has to follow a prescribed route and perform his
collections in a sequence. Customers are
used to their collections at particular times that we have established for them
by following set routes. When after 2
months of training and performing his duties correctly and as clearly set out,
Oliver then decides to drive the route in a different sequence. This then leads to a number of missed
collections and customers who are unhappy with our service. This then drives a spike in calls into our
customer service / administration centre.
It also means that a second driver (Michael) has to perform additional
hours to correct the errors that Oliver has created. So by deviating away from the clearly defined
route and task, Oliver has created conflict between himself, the admin staff
and also Michael. Oliver has created a
lot of unhappy team members by his actions and morale is low because of his
I, as a manger find it best to explain to Oliver the consequences of his
actions. We have clearly set out
collection routes and times for a number of reasons. Deviation from these without proper planning,
consultation and communication can have a negative effect on our performance as
a team and a business. Again, I have to
clearly set out to all staff members what the customer expects of us as an
organisation, what the organisation demands of us as employees and how we must
act accordingly to ensure we provide a professional service.
It is at times such as the example of Oliver the Driver given above that we
are most likely to encounter disagreements on the best way to perform the
task. By bringing the group together and
discussing the actions taken by Oliver
and his reasoning for it through actively listening to him we can get an
understanding of his rational. On the
other hand, it can also be explained to Oliver
consequences of his unplanned or sanctioned actions. The effect it has on the call centre and also
the knock on effect that Michael had
to be sent back to correct the work that was not done by Oliver.
There may also be merit in Oliver’s actions and it may turn out that his way might be more
effective and efficient and productive so at the time of bringing the group
together Oliver’s way of performing
the task can be discussed and if in turn it is a better way, it can be put in
as standard operating procedure once proper planning and communication is put
in place so that staff and customers are aware of the changes. This then builds the trust up amongst the team
members as they know they can put forward ideas and suggestions that will be
carefully considered by all and will be acted upon if there is merit in the
Sometimes the Storming phase can be unpleasant and
we have seen first-hand the fall out in the workplace from the confrontation it
can cause. It is vital that the line
manager deals with these situations quickly and offers the necessary support to
the team to work through this phase to get to the stage of performing their
tasks in a productive manner. Not as a
laborious task that should be avoided by burying your head in the sand and
hoping it goes away or sorts itself out.
In our workplace our operational crew are remote
workers. That is they work in pairs as a
collection crew on refuse collection vehicles.
Getting the pairing right is vital.
Sometimes I won’t always get the pairings right. Each crew member’s
level of work experience and even life experience can have a bearing on how
they work through the Storming stage. Keeping two members of staff working
together in a team that do not work together or gel together due to a
personality clash can stifle that crew’s performance and in turn then it will
effect over all groups performance. By
getting to know the individual team members at the Forming stage with a
“hands on” approach the manager can decide what team members might work better
as a unit and perform the task as required.
This cannot be rushed; it has to be got right and may have to be
re-visited again and again. Not looking
at how team members engage with each other can have an effect on the morale in
that unit and once again affect the overall morale in the entire operational
Train the Trainer course we were now a couple of weeks in. The learners on the course were more familiar
with each other and you could see little groups forming within the group of 8
learners. The original awkwardness
towards each other was now replaced with team spirit. This was now a team who would work together a
one unit with a single focus on getting the task complete. For one or two of our assignments we had to
work together as a team and each team member put forward their ideas on the
case study. These ideas were discussed
and arguments for and against were put forward.
It was interesting to note that the class tutor had
faded into the background so to speak…gone from that of the team leader but
kind of a 9th team member. A
silent partner in other words. Observing
and digesting the individual arguments being put forward but not getting
involved. We were now in the Norming
stage (even though we didn’t know it).
At the start of the 6 week course it was evident that there were some
stronger personalities and others that were shy in a group situation. However, at the third stage, the quieter ones
were every bit as vocal as the stronger ones.
This was because they had become comfortable with each other and the
group as a whole. Looking back on it now
this was part of the Storming phase and came about
through robust classroom debate on the learning topics at hand.
There was a sense of pride in completing the task
as a unit and if this was a real work situation then I am confident that the
team of 8 who were on the Train the Trainer course could take on any task as a
cohesive unit and achieve the desired outcome or result.
In my workplace we can never rest on our
laurels. We operate in a very
competitive environment. Now that I am
familiar with the stages of Group development it is incumbent on me as the
regional operations manager to ensure that I pay particular attention to both
the administration and operational staff and their development. I can now ensure that we work them through
all the stages of development to reach the final stage of Performing. This will ensure that we have a happier and a
more effective, efficient and productive team.
A team that operates to the best of its ability and does not get
complacent will lead to a better customer experience. It will also lead to a higher return on
investment for the stakeholders.
I like to think of my management style as one that
empowers adults to take responsibility for their actions. Once a staff member is trained in their
duties and properly inducted into the team and has come through the first 3
stages of Tuckman’s (1965) theory there is no barriers to them performing as a
normal part of the team.
When introducing a new staff member to the team
they are in fact performing their duties to an extent. While they would not be fully productive this
is allowed for and acceptable as part of their training period.
It is my conclusion from reflecting
on my learning experience on the Train the Trainer course and comparing that
with my role as an operations manager in a utilities company that Bruce Tuckman’s (1965) will now assist me greatly when
making changes to any part of the team.
Whether it’s adding to the team or making any personnel
adjustments. I now see the model as a
reference point. While the model is over 50 years old its
message remains the same. People being
people they will follow this conventional pathway when coming together to form
a team and its vital for the team leader or manger to understand and recognise
all the stages. It is the informed
manager that will achieve the most from the team with the least amount of
ambiguity. There is
very little difference in how people interact with each other in 2017 than
there was in 1917. A team, any team; be
it a sports team or a work team will take time to develop and grow. They will work through each stage and
depending on all the factors previously discussed the duration of each stage
will vary in timeframe. This will always
be the case when strangers come together for the first time to form a group or
team that is expected to perform together. The magic
of Tuckman’s theory is in its simplicity.
It is as plain on the nose on ones face but unless it is demonstrated
and understood the concept will be lost on the team leader or manager.
Tuckman, Bruce W. (1965)
‘Developmental sequence in small groups’, Psychological Bulletin.
Bruce Tuckman’s ‘Stages for a Group’ online, https://www.toolshero.com/management/tuckman-stages-of-group-development
Accessed 19 Jan. 2018
19 Jan. 2018
http://infed.org/mobi/bruce-w-tuckman-forming-storming-norming-and-performing- in-groups/. Accesses 22 Jan