Climbing to performance
by Paula K. Martin and Karen Tate, PMP, Contributing Editors
VERY LITTLE WORK gets done when a group is in the first stage of team development—the forming stage. People are too busy figuring our why they are on the team, what the goals of the project are, which people will be difficult to work with. Team members are polite and inquiring, waiting to see what will happen. What you will hear during forming is, “Why? What? Who? When?”
You know you're in the next stage of development, storming, when there is open conflict in the team. Disagreements erupt about what needs to be done and who will do it. Groups may divide into opposing factions. Listen for “I can't” and “That's not possible” to know you're in storming.
You can't skip over the storming stage. The only path to norming is through the storm.
If the team resolves its conflicts, it moves on to the next stage of development, norm-ing. In this stage, project goals, roles and boundaries are clarified and accepted by team members. They take ownership and accountability for getting work done. You will hear “I can” and “I will.” You're getting some concrete results and things are looking brighter.
The highest level of team performance comes in the performing stage, when the team finally becomes a true team. The team, not the leader, is managing the project. The team is making adjustments to keep deliverables on track; the team is monitoring progress and managing change. The team has taken full ownership and accountability not only for the project but also for the team process as well. Key phrases become “We can” and “We will.” You've hit the upper registers for achieving results.
Of the predictable stages of team development— forming, storming, norming and performing—the performing stage produces the best results. What stage is your team in?
How do you get your team to climb to that uppermost performing stage? The place to start is at the beginning, in forming. Forming usually occurs during the kickoff process. Moving the team from forming to storming can be done by (1) having clear direction for the project in the form of a charter; (2) helping individuals on the team get to know and accept each other (profiling individual and team styles—thinking, learning, and behavioral styles—will help here); and (3) having the team participate in the project planning process. Team participation works best when there is a team-based, structured process that they can follow.
Paula Martin and Karen Tate are founders of Martin-Tate, a project management training firm, and are the authors of the Project Management Memory Jogger™ (available through the PMI Bookstore.) More information on project planning can be found on their website at www.projectresults.com. Comments on this column should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exhibit. A team must work through each stage of development to reach its desired productivity and effectiveness.
To move from storming into norming you need to (1) continue to use a structured, participative project management process; (2) use visual, team-based planning tools that help resolve differences and lead to consensus; (3) clarify scope and roles and responsibilities; and (4) practice team dynamic skills in the form of effective listening, constructive feedback and conflict resolution. If you do it right, you can be moving out of storming and into norming by the middle of the planning phase.
Moving from norming to performing requires building trust and competency within the team. To do this you need to work on good meeting skills, coaching, recognition, celebration, team-based monitoring, and team-based change control to ratchet up the process one more step. The leader must continue to facilitate and not dominate. Problems must continue to be resolved effectively. Team members must feel safe and supported.
IF YOU MAKE IT THIS FAR, you've got yourself a performing team—one that sings a sweet, sweet song of success!
PM Network June 1999