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Working in diverse teams
Working in diverse teams

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2 The S-curve of team performance

In the last activity you considered the different stages Mark’s team went through to complete their task. Their journey from the Forming stage to the Adjourning stage, when they celebrated the success of their efforts, saw them pass through different levels of competence or performance. It could be said that they were not performing fully until the latter stages of their development. This gradual move to competence and successful team performance has been described by Lipnack and Stamp (2000) as an ‘S-curve’.

A graph showing the S-curve of team performance.
Figure 2  The S-curve of team performance

In Figure 2 you can see that as time progresses the group slowly improves in the way it performs, reaching maximum performance or competence in the final stages of Performing and Adjourning. In reality, it is unlikely that progress through these stages will be as smooth as described here and there is no guarantee that starting the process at the Forming stage will lead to the Norming stage, never mind successful Performing of the team!

Activity 2 A little introspection

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Consider a team that you are currently part of. Where would you place your group on this S-curve of team development? What kind of behaviour or feelings can you identify that indicate to you that this is where your group is currently at?

If you are not currently involved in any team activities, then consider an example of a previous team experience or use an example of a famous team that you are aware of to consider where they are currently on this curve. Reality shows like Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here is fertile ground for an examination of group dynamics, so do use these as well.

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If you struggled to identify when your group went through each stage then do not worry as the reality is that these phases are rarely distinct and a group may go back to an earlier stage more than once. You may also have found that a team which you have been part of did not seem to get to the later stages and seemed to get stuck on one of the earlier stages.

It is important to realise that not all groups successfully move through all of the stages and reach a point of successful performance.

This is why it is important to be able to recognise what is going on in your group and identify the stage you are at. With this level of understanding of team development you can also have an awareness of what you need to do to fix any issues as they evolve so that you can move your team onto the next stage in the process.

You will look at this in more detail next.