What stage is your team in?

Teams that Work:

Back in 1965, Bruce Tuckman first described the phases of team development as forming, storming, norming, and performing. With variations and enhancements on the theme, these phases generally have stood the test of time. In order to get to the performing stage, i.e. when teams focus on achieving their shared purpose and begin to achieve desired results, teams must take the time to learn how to work effectively together. If it’s unclear who is actually on the team or team members are constantly changing, the team may get stuck in the forming or storming phases, resulting in a poorly performing team. This is why team stability is important and a key characteristic of a real team.

According to Dr. Ruth Wageman, a real team is interdependent, bounded, and stable. In a previous post, we discussed the importance of identifying the interdependent work that a real team must do – otherwise, it won’t be a real team. Similarly, a team must have some stability in order to have the time to actually produce results, which is of course, the ultimate assessment on whether a team is effective or not. Here, we will break down the importance of team stability and creating that sufficient stability for team effectiveness.

The Stability of a Team Provides 3 Important Components:

  1. Getting to know each other – Stability provides the time for a group of people to get to know each other well enough to understand each members’ strengths and limitations. This aspect is especially important where team members may contribute in diverse ways from a skills, knowledge, and/or experience perspective as they go about tackling their interdependent work.
  2. Learning how to work together – Stability also provides the time for people to develop team norms and the appropriate structure for optimal execution of tasks. Team members who establish and hold each other accountable for agreed-upon behaviors are one of the primary differentiators between an outstanding and a mediocre team.
  3. Increasing performance – Stability allows the team to become increasingly more effective as a unit over time, not just once. When the 6 Conditions are designed and implemented, the team develops a cycle of successes with much less risk of burnout or damage relationships.

Chronic Instability Versus Planned Change

“Planned exit and planned entry… are not the same as chronic instability”1 Of course, in the current climate of business, change is inevitable and increasing at warp speed. Once a team has been designed, launched, and is established, changes in membership can occur. It takes some forethought though. When done well, the time it takes to onboard a new team member and begins adding value to the team can be minimized.

Creating Sufficient Stability for Team Effectiveness

Asking yourself the following questions will get you on track for team stability and overall team effectiveness.

  • Realistically, how long does this team need to be in existence to fulfill its purpose? This time frame will provide a guide on how much membership change it can take.
  • Are team norms defined, articulated, and honored?
  • How will current team members learn about any transition (or change?) so that they have time to adjust?
  • How will the team celebrate achievements and thank team members that are leaving?
  • What onboarding process will the team use for new members?
  • Who will take responsibility for acclimating new team members? (This doesn’t have to be the same person every time.)
  • Who will provide feedback, both constructive and positive, to the new team member? How will that feedback be given? This important aspect should also be part of team norms.

For additional information and guidance on team performance, download our Team Performance Worksheet to guide you in increased retention, improved efficiencies, and enhanced productivity.

Culture Innovations has years of experience coaching teams and leaders to be truly effective. Interested in learning more about our team coaching program? Contact us at info@cultureinnovations.com. We can help.

1. Wageman, R., et al, Senior Leadership Teams: What it Takes to Make Them Great, Harvard Business School Press, 2008, 241 pp.