Thursday, 25 March 2021 17:46

Do Stormy Times Await?

If you’ve been on one of our Leadership and Management training courses before, you’re probably already familiar with Tuckman’s Model. We mention it often and we’ve written about it on this blog previously. Simply put, Tuckman’s Model is a characterisation of the process that teams go through to reach a stage where that team becomes productive; as established by psychologist Bruce Tuckman in the 1960’s.

It’s relevant today because it’s likely that many teams will experience Tuckman’s Model, or a variation of it, as employees return to the workplace after Covid.

The stages of establishing a productive team, as described by Dr Tuckman are: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing with a further stage of Adjourning latterly added. Below we’ve amended the traditional description for each stage of the model to reflect the challenges that organisations are likely to face considering the influences of the Covid and lockdown factors.

Forming: Ordinarily this stage describes when a team has just come together. Individuals are polite if perhaps a little reserved with one another as they learn and understand others’ job roles, ways of working and personalities. After lockdown we can expect this stage to be more about re-familiarisation as team members will most probably already know one another. However it’s likely that Covid will have forced a need for change in job roles as well as working practices so how the team fits together may have to be re-learned. There may also be new starters who will have the added task of learning and understanding the culture of the organisation. Insecurity and/or lack of clarity could create friction. In all scenarios, this is a crucial time for leaders to demonstrate strong guidance.

Storming: This is commonly a phase where conflict arises as team members now have the measure of one another and some push for supremacy or dominance. After becoming accustomed to a relaxed and sometimes solitary working from home environment, team members may struggle to accommodate others’ working styles and processes, leading to frustration. Leaders may find their authority challenged, particularly if previous rules and processes have waned or if new guidelines are still quite experimental and flexible whilst they become established. Storming can also occur when a new member joins a stable team and the dynamic shifts. This may be the result of a re-shuffle or new shift pattern necessitated by Covid and members must once again establish themselves and their positions.

Norming: Teams eventually become settled, differences resolve and individuals understand theirs and colleagues’ roles including any changes implemented to achieve the new normal. The chain of command is established and we move to a position where we see some real progress in attaining the team’s goals. Members will revert to relying on one another and feel able to ask for help from others. Depending on the vaccine rollout and Government hospitality restrictions, there may be opportunity for social interactions and friendships re-forming. It can take a while to reach the norming stage, however some teams have been here before so it may not be such an uphill battle. Furthermore, we’ve gone through 12months of constant and at times quite dramatic changes, the experience of which may help team members adapt quickly and reach the norming stage sooner.

Performing: Eventually we should get to a stage where the team is achieving what it was set up to do and should accomplish this without conflict or resistance. A sign that the team has reached this stage is when it continues to function effectively in the absence of its leader. A performing team should be able to continue effectively even if team members come and go or new challenges are presented that it can overcome autonomously.

Adjourning: This stage can occur if the team was set up to complete a specific task which it achieves and is subsequently disbanded. It can also occur when outside influences cause the team to be restructured or broken apart. Many teams would have experienced this phase over the last 12 months when Covid restrictions affected their organisation or workplace. This can be a difficult stage for some people, especially when strong friendships have been formed, and very probably contributed to cases of mental health issues during lockdown; which is why it is sometimes referred to as “mourning”.

We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking things will just go back to the way they were before and everything will just pick up where we left off. We should be prepared for people’s attitudes and approaches to have changed over the last 12 months and this will affect the way they interact with other team members. Remember some people may have lost loved ones to the pandemic or been seriously ill themselves.

Like everything else we’ve been through this last year, returning to work and reforming teams is going to be a new experience, so Tuckman’s Model won’t be an exact fit. However, recognising that your team is likely to go through some process that is similar to it will make your management more effective as it will enable you to implement tactics to progress to the performing stage more quickly.

Tuckman’s model is discussed in a number of our Leadership & management courses, and you can still attend these for free if your business is in Worcestershire, Swindon & Wiltshire, Bristol and now Somerset & Devon.

Effective leadership is required more than ever to integrate teams back into the workplace, working together and moving through the model to be at the very least norming, but ideally performing.

Remember, we can also support you with team management and associated documents including Contracts of Employment and Staff Handbooks. Call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 1000 times Last modified on Thursday, 25 March 2021 21:03


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