Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

How teams work
How teams work

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

3.2 Implications of the team development model

Generally, significant progress on a team’s tasks does not occur until the norming stage. This is captured in Figure 3, which shows how team performance (in terms of progress towards the final goal, plotted on the vertical axis) varies according to the stage of development of the team (plotted on the horizontal axis in terms of time). The graph is intended to give you only an impression of how teams perform so it should not be interpreted too literally. In particular, teams do not spend an equal length of time at each stage of development. In some teams, team performance may even drop during the storming stage as the team undergoes the sometimes painful transition from being a group of collaborating individuals and becomes a team (Becker, 2003).

The S-shaped curve of team development
(Adapted from Lipnack and Stamps, 2000)
Figure 3 The S-shaped curve of team development

It is instructive to compare this view of the development in team performance over time, as a team progresses through the different stages of team development, with the formation of high-performing teams proposed by Katzenbach and Smith (1993). These authors suggest that team effectiveness increases as teams move through phases of team development, from a working group to a high-performance team as illustrated in Figure 4. When comparing Figures 3 and 4, you should note that Figure 3 shows the development of team performance over time, whereas Figure 4 show the development in a team’s performance in terms of their effectiveness.

The team performance curve
(Redrawn from Katzenbach and Smith, 1993)
Figure 4 The team performance curve

Tuckman’s model of team development has a number of other implications and consequences of which it is useful to be aware:

  • The duration and intensity of the different stages can vary between teams. Some teams may have a very smooth and rapid passage through the first few stages of the model whereas others may have a much more difficult passage.
  • Teams usually have to progress through the earlier stages of development in order to reach the performing stage, so don’t become discouraged if your team doesn’t work too well at first.
  • It is possible for a team to return to a previous stage of development. This may happen if new and significant issues arise in the team, or if team members leave or new members join the team.
  • A team may never complete its journey through the five stages of development. If the team is together for only a short time, if it has taken a long time to develop, or if the team has returned to previous stages of development, then it may never reach the performing stage of team development.
  • The model has been presented in terms of a series of discrete, identifiable stages. However, the stages may merge into one another or be repeated as issues recur or new ones emerge.

From the above discussion it would be very easy to think that there is a need to manage the process of team formation by actively intervening if the team does not appear to be moving on to the next stage of development. Often, a more task-oriented approach, of letting the team evolve by focusing attention and energy on the team task, is more effective. It has even been found that teams that devote excessive attention to their own development are less productive and enjoyable to work in than those that do not. Therefore, the skill in facilitating team development is to know when, how, and if at all, to intervene in building the team.


Briefly describe each stage of Tuckman’s model of team development.


The five stages are: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. In the first stage, forming, team members primarily get to know one another and do little towards meeting the goals of the project. This stage can be thought of as socialisation. In the second stage, storming, spirited discussions and arguments amongst the team members occur, but these lead to the team developing mechanisms for managing discussions and arriving at satisfactory conclusions when disagreements occur. Some significant progress towards the team goals can occur in this stage. However, most progress occurs in the third stage, norming. In the norming stage the team members transition from a group of individuals to becoming members of a cohesive team. In the fourth stage, performing, the team will be getting on with the task, producing results, and there will be good working relationships within the team. The final stage, adjourning, is where the team has completed the tasks and disbands.