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Phases of Team Performance

By anthonyb
Jun. 12, 2018

We should be aware that adding or removing resources on projects have a tendency to interrupt and impact the overall performance of a team.

Certainly with the higher numbers represented within a team, switching of members would likely not feel a huge impact. But we can all see more often than not, when it’s in smaller groups, where any member represents a larger part of the whole, the impact is much greater. Seems like common sense, but this concept is generally missed by planning and resourcing management.

As we can expect, not every member of a team will ‘gel’ well with the rest of their team members instantly. There’s a process to team performance that happens over a period of time, and there are many factors that can range from level of expertise, education, language, culture, maturity, skill set, and location of each team member.

There are many more factors not discussed here, but you hopefully get the idea. Keeping in mind these many factors, almost all teams will go through the phases in which they can begin to perform. The more common they are to each other, the faster they are likely to perform.

Forming

In this stage, not much is happening, and it is likely the shortest phase in duration. The members are called up to the task, and are being made aware that they will soon be asked to join the rest of the team to build something.

Storming

You can get an idea of the cohesiveness of the team by the root ‘storm’ which usually implies there going to be the bulk of disagreements, irritation, and conflicts within the group. The conflict will occur as a result of any situation where team members don’t see eye-to-eye (reasons mentioned above in 2nd paragraph). This is probably the stage at which you would hope your team would get over quite quickly, but could in fact take a long time. In fact, sometimes the team might never get past this stage and it can overlap into the following stages to some extent.

Norming

This stage represents the moment where the team starts to gel and has found momentum to the point where everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. This also implies they’ve gotten over their differences from the Storming phase, or at least to a great extent. This does not mean that the Storming phase is forever gone, since any addition of tasks, or possible new members to the team can knock them back there.

Performing

This stage becomes common sense, a team that learns and interacts with each other, tends to perform well and is on their way to building the very thing they were put together to do. Systems are put in place, and the team becomes independent or autonomous to some extent. Training and coaching is likely still required, and if not required, it is definitely recommended in order to keep them moving in the right direction. Certainly there may be some members who will perform more (or less) than others, but the key here is to make sure there’s a steady level of challenges so that the team doesn’t get bored or distracted.

Also note, with this phase in place, there can still be remnants of Storming, especially if a new member joins at some point.

Adjourning

This is not necessarily a phase with heavy team activity, much like the Forming stage, it represents the breaking up of the team along with post-mortems, documentation, or retrospectives, especially at the end of a project. Since it means that the team is no longer going to be working together, those who developed close bonds, can develop a considerable amount of anxiety since they either don’t know if they’ll be working with each other again, or quite simply there’s just an uneasiness of not knowing what’s next in general.

Conclusion

All these phases don’t happen exclusively from each other, and they more likely happen simultaneously when the team is less experienced. It is therefore important as leaders to be on the lookout for progress in the team dynamic in making sure their progression to the Performing stage is as quick as possible. This of course, comes with a lot of effort and attention. The lesson that most team leaders should take from these phases is that performance is not an instant result of team forming, as we can see there’s a definite timeline for this to happen, but don’t be surprised if this fact is commonly ignored.