What Team Change Looks Like


All teams go through a change process when they are first formed and when significant events occur such as a new member arriving, a key member leaving, a change of scope, increased pressure from outside, or a change in organizational climate. 

One of the most commonly referenced sources in team development is Tuckman. His basic premise is that any team will undergo distinct stages of development as it works or struggles

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towards effective team functioning.  Many people have heard of his work as “forming, storming, norming, performing.”

 Forming is the first stage. This involves the team establishing a set of fundamental guidelines. They are: 

-       Primary purpose

-       Developing a structure to achieve their purpose

-       Establishing roles

-       Selecting a leader

-       Developing guidelines about how they will work together

-       Developing guidelines about how they will relate together

-       Establishing their boundaries as a team

Storming is the second stage.  This stage describes the dynamic that occurs when we have come together to work on a common task and have passed the phase of being nice to one another and not voicing individual concerns.  Some examples of disagreements are:

-       I don’t think we should be aiming for that

-       This structure hasn’t taken account of this.

-       There are rather a lot of gray areas in our individual accountabilities

-       Why was he appointed as team leader when he hasn’t done this before?

-       I don’t know whether I can work productively with these people.

-       How can we achieve our goals without the support from others in the organization?

Note that this is a natural part of the process.  Traversed successfully, it will achieve clarity on all the fundamental assumptions of the first phase, and enable common understanding of purpose and roles to be achieved.  It allows the authority of the team leader to be seen and acknowledged, and it allows everyone to take up his or her rightful place within the team.  It gives members a sense of the way things will take place within the team.  It becomes a template for future ways of acting, problem solving, decision making and relating.

 Norming is the third phase.  This occurs when the team finally settles down into working towards achievement of its task.  The team moves through the storming phase into a way of working that establishes team norms.  If you find that the team moves back and forth between storming and norming, this indicates that some team issues are not being surfaced and dealt with (which should have happened in the initial storming phase).

Performing is the fourth phase.  This is the final phase of team development.  The team has clarity about purpose, its structure and its roles.  It has engaged in a rigorous process of working out how it should work and relate together, and is comfortable with the team norms it has established.  It has developed a capacity to change and develop, and has learned how to learn.                                                                                                            

The team can get on with the task in hand and attend to individual and team needs at the same time.




Leadership and Management


Change will happen: however, as Tony Robbins is quoted as saying, “change is inevitable; progress is optional.”  Implicit in this statement is that all change does not result in progress – I think we all know that.  Sometimes the big new plan seems like it’s taking us backwards instead of into the 21st century, as promised.  How do we avoid getting into these situations? 

What can we do to make sure we make progress when change heads our way?  When faced with a change situation, I always begin with what I call Management 101.  During my business management program, my advisor told me something that I have never forgotten; he said that management always contains four basic elements and to be successful, we must always ensure any project we undertake has all four in order to be successful.  They are: plan, organize, direct, and assess. 

Start any change process with careful planning.  Account for resources, this includes people, equipment, tools, spaces, transportation, materials, and funding.  Make sure you develop a detailed timeline ofevents and who is accountable for each of them.

Next, organize based on your plan.  Do such tasks as submit funding requests, secure equipment you will be using, work with Human Resources and organizational leaders to arrange for people, etc.  Get everything in order, making sure your plan is fully supported.

Once the process begins, it is time to direct.  Make sure that action is being taken in accordance with your plan.  Are those accountable for events making sure they are occurring and are they reporting the status of all actionable items to you? Are you engaged in the process and following up on the plan regularly?

Finally, assess the progress being made.  Is quality up to your standards?  Is the timeline being followed?  Look for signs of slippage, such as material not arriving on time or progress reports being deferred.

Once you have assessed the situation, start the process again by adjusting your plan, organizing your changes, directing, and assessing once again.

By applying these simple steps, one can make sure that progress is made when change occurs.



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