diagram of team development stages
How Leveraging the Phases of Team Development -- Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning -- Can Help Your Teams Be Happier and More Productive
04 January 2021
🔥 Update: There are now two versions of the Phases of Team Development visual. This article covers the English version. The Spanish translation — Fases del Desarrollo del Equipo — was subsequently released and is available here.
Teams (agile or otherwise) go through phases of development, and Dr. Bruce Tuckman established a popular and durable
framework on the subject. According to Dr. Tuckman, all phases—Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning—are necessary for teams to grow, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work, and deliver results.
Agile project management thought leader, influencer, and author Scott M. Graffius developed a related custom illustration, Phases of Team Development. It highlights the performance level, characteristics, and proven strategies for each of the phases. Project Managers, Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches, DevOps Leads, and other professional can apply the information to help handle challenges or issues experienced by teams. By doing so, they’ll advance the teams' happiness and productivity, as well as the teams' (and their own) success. Graffius updates the content periodically.
He released an updated version of the visual on January 4, 2021. This article features the new version of the Phases of Team Development illustration along with an overview of the characteristics and key strategies for each phase. The new image is shown below. Read on for details including information on permission requests and downloadable high-resolution versions of the visual.
Five Phases of Team Development
Citation: Graffius, Scott M. (2021). Phases of Team Development. Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.13140/RG.2.2.22040.42246. DOI link: https://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.22040.42246.
For permission requests and high-resolution images, see below.
Characteristics of Forming include displaying eagerness, socializing, generally polite tone, sticking to safe topics, being unclear about how one fits in, and some anxiety and questioning. Strategies for this phase include taking the ‘lead,’ being highly visible, facilitating introductions, providing the ‘big picture,’ establishing clear expectations, communicating success criteria, and ensuring that response times are quick.
Traits of Storming include resistance, lack of participation, conflict related to differences of feelings and opinions, competition, high emotions, and starting to move towards group norms. Strategies for this phase include requesting and encouraging feedback, identifying issues and facilitating their resolution, normalizing matters, and building trust by honoring commitments.
Features of Norming include an improved sense of purpose and understanding of goals, higher confidence, improved commitment, team members are engaged and supportive, relief—lowered anxiety, and starting to develop cohesion. Strategies for this phase include recognizing individual and team efforts, proving opportunities for learning and feedback, and monitoring the ‘energy’ of the team.
Characteristics of Performing include higher motivation, elevated trust and empathy, individuals typically deferring to the team's needs, effective production, consistent performance, and demonstrations of interdependence and self-management (also referred to as self-organization). Strategies for this phase include ‘guiding from the side’ (minimal intervention), celebrating successes, and encouraging collective decision-making and problem-solving.
Typical traits of Adjourning (also referred to as Transitioning or Mourning) include a shift to process orientation, sadness, recognition of team and individual efforts, and disbanding. Strategies for this phase include recognizing change, providing an opportunity for summative team evaluations (which may go by ‘lessons learned,’ post-project review, retrospective, or another label), providing an opportunity for individual acknowledgments, and celebrating the team's accomplishments—which may involve a party and possibly an after-party.
The illustration summarizes the above information—and it shows how performance fluctuates as teams move through each phase. This information may be helpful for looking at your team.
Downloadable High-Resolution Versions of Visual
Scott M. Graffius, the creator and owner of the Phases of Team Development illustration, has downloadable high-resolution versions of the visual on his website. Links follow:
For permission requests, contact the email address noted in the illustration.
Select list of publications
- Alford, J. (2019, April 11). Our Co-Production Journey: From Sandpits to Bird Boxes. London, United Kingdom: Imperial College London.
- Bennett, M., Gadlin, H., & Marchand, C. (2018). Collaboration Team Science: Field Guide. Rockville, MD: National Institutes of Health.
- Couture, N. (2016, October 27). A Note About Teams. CIO. Boston, MA: International Data Group (IDG).
- Daly, L. (2002). Identify Your Project Management Team’s Level of Development and Facilitate It to Success. Paper presented at Project Management Institute Annual Seminars and Symposium, San Antonio, TX. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
- Deloitte (2017). Digital Era Technology Operating Models, Volume 2. New York, NY: Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.
- Finkelstein, S. (2017, October 29). Why Companies Should Hire Teams, Not Individuals. The Wall Street Journal. New York, NY: The Wall Street Journal.
- Forbes (2018, April 23). How to Fast-Track Any Team to Success. Forbes. New York, NY: Forbes.
- Forbes (2012, October 27). How the iPad Mini is Defining Tim Cook’s Apple. Forbes. New York, NY: Forbes.
- Glover, P. (2012, March 13). Team Conflict: Why It’s a Good Thing. Fast Company. New York, NY: Mansueto Ventures.
- Graffius, Scott M. (2021). Phases of Team Development. Los Angeles, CA: Scott M. Graffius. Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.13140/RG.2.2.22040.42246.
- Jovanovic, M., Mesquida, A., Radaković, N., & Mas, A. (2016). Agile Retrospective Games for Different Team Development Phases. Journal of Universal Computer Science, 22: 1489-1508.
- Kane, G. C. (2014, October 7). Why Your Company is Probably Measuring Social Media Wrong. MIT Sloan Management Review. Cambridge, MA: MIT Sloan Management Review.
- KPMG (2017). The Digital Fund, Season 2. Amstelveen, Netherlands: KPMG International.
- Madden, D. (2019, May 19). The Four Stages of Building a Great Team – and the One Where Things Usually Go Wrong. Inc. Magazine. New York, NY: Inc. Magazine.
- Makar, A. (2011, July 13). Lessons Learned in Norming and Performing Team Development Phases. Louisville, KY: TechRepublic.
- Martinuzzi, B. (2012, June 8). Six Tips Guaranteed to Reduce Workplace Frustrations. New York, NY: American Express Company.
- Microsoft (2019, June 15). Is the Latest Technology the Key to Your Team’s Success, or is There Something Else? Microsoft Developer Support. Accessed at: https://devblogs.microsoft.com/premier-developer/is-the-latest-technology-the-key-to-your-teams-success-or-is-there-something-else. Redmond, WA: Microsoft.
- Mocko, G., & Linnerud, B. (2016). Measuring the Effects of Goal Alignment on Innovative Engineering Design Projects. International Journal of Engineering Education, 32: 55-63.
- Romanelli, M. (2019, September 11). Teamwork Accelerated. PM Times. Newmarket, Ontario, Canada: Macgregor Communications.
- Riggs, A. (2020, October 15). Why I Start All My Video Meetings with Collaborative Games (Spoiler: It’s Not Boredom). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: The Next Web (TNW).
- Rowley, D., & Lange, M. (2007). Forming to Performing: The Evolution of an Agile Team. IEEE Computer Society Proceedings. Agile 2007, 1: 408-414.
- Scrum Alliance (2020). Learning Objectives Examples. Denver, CO: Scrum Alliance.
- Sakpal, M. (2020, March 3. Learn How to Debunk These Five Restructuring Myths. Stamford, CT: Gartner, Inc.
- Stern, S. (2018, September 26). Is Your Team Working the Rory Underwood Way? Financial Times. London, United Kingdom: The Financial Times, a Nikkei Company.
- Telford, R. (2013, June 4). This is Where It Gets Interesting. Armonk, NY: International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation.
- Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental Sequence in Small Groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63: 384-399.
- Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group and Organizational Studies, 2 (4): 419-427.
- United States Army (2015). Innovative Learning: A Key to National Security. Washington, DC: United States Army.
- Watkins, M. D. (2016, June). Leading the Team You Inherit. Harvard Business Review. Brighton, MA: Harvard Business Publishing.
- World Health Organization (2012). Being an Effective Team Player. Accessed at: https://www.who.int/patientsafety/education/curriculum/course4_handout.pdf. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
About Scott M. Graffius
Scott M. Graffius, PMP, CSP-SM, CSP-PO, CSM, CSPO, ITIL, LSSGB is an agile project management practitioner, consultant, award-winning author (Agile Scrum and Agile Transformation), and international speaker. Content from his books, speaking engagements, and more has been featured and used by media outlets, publications, businesses, governments, and universities including Yahoo Finance, Computer Weekly, Innovation Project Management, MobileAppDaily, Gartner, Oracle, Cisco, RSA, Ford, Liberty Mutual Group, Qantas, Atlassian, Bayer, Bosch, the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Department of Energy, the United States Army, the New Zealand Ministry of Education, Tufts University, James Madison University, Santa Clara University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech, and others. Thinkers360 named Scott a global top thought leader and influencer in three domains: Agile, Digital Transformation, and GovTech. His full-length bio is available here.
About Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions
Scott M. Graffius is the CEO of Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions™, a professional services firm, where he partners with client companies to help them achieve their strategic objectives and business initiatives through project management leadership. A fantastic agile transformation experience and result with a client organization in the entertainment industry was the inspiration for Scott’s first book, Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions. It helps teams develop and deliver products in short cycles with rapid adaptation to change, fast time-to-market, and continuous improvement—which supports innovation and drives competitive advantage. The book has garnered 17 first place awards an it has been featured by over 30 media outlets and publications. The book is available in paperback and ebook/Kindle formats in the United States and around the world. To learn more, visit AgileScrumGuide.com.
About Agile Transformation: A Brief Story of How an Entertainment Company Developed New Capabilities and Unlocked Business Agility to Thrive in an Era of Rapid Change
Thriving in today's marketplace frequently depends on making a transformation to become more agile. Those successful in the transition enjoy faster delivery speed and ROI, higher satisfaction, continuous improvement, and additional benefits. Based on actual events, Agile Transformation: A Brief Story of How an Entertainment Company Developed New Capabilities and Unlocked Business Agility to Thrive in an Era of Rapid Change provides a revealing behind-the-scenes account of a successful agile implementation at a global entertainment company. The award-winning book is available in paperback and ebook/Kindle formats in the United States and around the world.
About Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions
Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions helps client organizations strengthen their project management capabilities and realize their strategic objectives and business initiatives. The firm provides advisory, training, and facilitative consulting services related to project, program, portfolio, and PMO management inclusive of agile, waterfall, and hybrid approaches. While every engagement is unique, business outcomes typically include getting more projects done, faster delivery and time-to-market, improved on-budget performance, better management of risks, improved customer and stakeholder satisfaction, more consistent realization of business results, and greater competitive advantage. Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions provides a Delighted Client Guarantee™. For details, visit https://www.Exceptional-PMO.com.
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