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Tuckman's stages of group development

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The forming–storming–norming–performing model of group development was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965,[1] who said that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for a team to grow, face up to challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work, and deliver results. Tuckman suggested that these inevitable phases were critical to team growth and development: he hypothesized that along with these factors, interpersonal relationships and task activity would enhance the four-stage model that is needed to successfully navigate and create an effective group function.[2]

Group development[edit]


The team meets and learns about the opportunities and challenges, and then agrees on goals and begins to tackle the tasks. Team members tend to behave quite independently. They may be motivated but are usually relatively uninformed of the issues and objectives of the team. Team members are usually on their best behavior but very focused on themselves. Mature team members begin to model appropriate behavior even at this early phase. The meeting environment also plays an important role to model the initial behavior of each individual. The major task functions also concern orientation. Members attempt to become oriented to the tasks as well as to one another. This is also the stage in which group members test boundaries, create ground rules, and define organizational standards.[3] Discussion centres on defining the scope of the task, how to approach it, and similar concerns. To grow from this stage to the next, each member must relinquish the comfort of non-threatening topics and risk the possibility of conflict.


This is the second stage of team development, where the group starts to sort itself out and gain each others' trust. This stage often starts when they voice their opinions; conflict may arise between team members as power and status are assigned. When group members start to work with each other they start to learn about individual working styles and what it is like to work with each other as a team; it also identifies the hierarchy of positions in the group. At this stage there is often a positive and polite atmosphere, people are pleasant to each other, and they may have feelings of excitement, eagerness and positivity. Others may have feelings of suspicion, fear and anxiety. The leader of the team will then describe the tasks to the group, describe the different behaviours to the group and how to deal and handle complaints. In this stage "participants form opinions about the character and integrity of the other participants and feel compelled to voice these opinions if they find someone shirking responsibility or attempting to dominate. Sometimes participants question the actions or decision of the leader as the expedition grows harder".[4] Disagreements and personality clashes must be resolved before the team can progress out of this stage, and so some teams may never emerge from "storming"[5] or re-enter that phase if new challenges or disputes arise. In Tuckman's 1965 paper, only 50% of the studies identified a stage of intragroup conflict, and some of the remaining studies jumped directly from stage 1 to stage 3.[6]


"Resolved disagreements and personality clashes result in greater intimacy, and a spirit of co-operation emerges."[4] This happens when the team is aware of competition and they share a common goal. In this stage, all team members take responsibility and have the ambition to work for the success of the team's goals. They start tolerating the whims and fancies of the other team members. They accept others as they are and make an effort to move on. The danger here is that members may be so focused on preventing conflict that they are reluctant to share controversial ideas.


"With group norms and roles established, group members focus on achieving common goals, often reaching an unexpectedly high level of success."[4] By this time, they are motivated and knowledgeable. The team members are now competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channelled through means acceptable to the team.

Supervisors of the team during this phase are almost always participating. The team will make most of the necessary decisions. Even the most high-performing teams will revert to earlier stages in certain circumstances. Many long-standing teams go through these cycles many times as they react to changing circumstances. For example, a change in leadership may cause the team to revert to storming as the new people challenge the existing norms and dynamics of the team.

Further developments[edit]


In 1977, Tuckman, jointly with Mary Ann Jensen, added a fifth stage to the four stages: adjourning,[7] that involves completing the task and breaking up the team (in some texts referred to as "mourning"). After being invited by Group and Organizational Studies to publish an update of the model, they revisited the original model and reviewed the literature. They concluded that an important step in the small group life cycle was the ultimate separation which occurred at the end of this cycle.[8]

Norming and re-norming[edit]

Timothy Biggs suggested that an additional stage be added of[clarification needed] "norming" after "forming" and renaming[clarification needed] the traditional norming stage "re-norming". This addition is designed to reflect that there is a period after forming where the performance of a team gradually improves, and the interference of a leader who is content with that level of performance will prevent a team from progressing through the storming stage to true performance. This puts the emphasis back on the team and leader,[clarification needed] as the storming stage must be actively engaged in order to succeed – too many "diplomats" or "peacemakers", especially in a leadership role, may prevent the team from reaching their full potential.[citation needed]

Rickards and Moger proposed a similar extension to the Tuckman model when a group breaks out of its norms, through a process of creative problem-solving.[9][10]

White-Fairhurst TPR model[edit]

Alasdair A. K. White together with his colleague, John Fairhurst, examined Tuckman's development sequence when developing the White-Fairhurst TPR model. They simplify the sequence and group the forming-storming-norming stages together as the "transforming" phase, which they equate with the initial performance level. This is then followed by a "performing" phase that leads to a new performance level which they call the "reforming" phase. Their work was developed further by White in his essay "From Comfort Zone to Performance Management"[11] in which he demonstrates the linkage between Tuckman's work with that of Colin Carnall's "coping cycle" and the "comfort zone theory".

Leadership strategies to facilitate successful team development[edit]

A healthcare research study "Maximizing Team Performance: The Critical Role of the Nurse Leader"[12] examined the role of nursing leaders in facilitating the development of high performing change teams using the Tuckman model of group development as a guiding framework. Using qualitative research techniques, these authors linked the team development stages to leadership strategies, as well as identified keys to leader success. Some examples from the article:

Team development stage Leadership strategies Keys to success
Forming (setting the stage)[12] Coordinating behaviors – Purposefully picking the team

– Facilitating team to identify goals

– Ensuring the team development of a shared mental model

Storming (resolving conflict and tension)[12] Coaching behaviors – Act as a resource person to the team

– Develop mutual trust

– Calm the work environment

Norming and performing (successfully implementing and sustaining projects)[12] Empowering behaviors – Get feedback from staff

– Allow for the transfer of leadership

– Set aside time for planning and engaging the team

Outperforming and adjourning (expanding initiative and integrating new members)[12] Supporting behaviors – Allow for flexibility in team roles

– Assist in the timing and selection of new member

– Create future leadership opportunities


In agile software development, high-performance teams will exhibit a swarm behavior as they come together, collaborate, and focus on solving a single problem. Swarming is a sometime behavior, in contrast to mob programming, which can be thought of as swarming all the time. Behavior of the swarms is way better to be seen as they move together If the process is applied to the team it will act and give better output.

Adaptations for project management[edit]

In project management, the Tuckman Ladder is referenced and used extensively by project managers to help them assemble and guide teams toward success.[13] In project management, the Tuckman Ladder's phases are not always realized in a linear fashion; it is common for teams to progress to the next phase and then wind up back at a previous phase as the project timeline progresses.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tuckman, Bruce W (1965). "Developmental sequence in small groups". Psychological Bulletin. 63 (6): 384–399. doi:10.1037/h0022100. PMID 14314073.
  2. ^ Bonebright, Denise A., "40 Years of Storming: a Historical Review of Tuckman's Model of Small Group Development". Human Resource Development International, vol. 13, no. 1, 2010, pp. 111–120.
  3. ^ Bonebright, Denise A. (February 2021). "40 Years of Storming: a Historical Review of Tuckman's Small Group Development". Human Resources Development International. 13 (1): 111–120.
  4. ^ a b c Leadership the Outward Bound Way: Becoming a Better Leader in the Workplace By Outward Bound USA, Rob Chatfield ISBN 9781594850332
  5. ^ "Stages of Group Development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing & Adjourning – Video & Lesson Transcript". Archived from the original on 2015-10-30. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  6. ^ Tuckman, Bruce (Spring 2001). "Developmental Sequence in Small Groups'" (PDF). Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal. 63 (6): 71–72. doi:10.1037/h0022100. PMID 14314073. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-11-29. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  7. ^ The Five Stages of Project Team Development Archived 2010-05-18 at the Wayback Machine, Gina Abudi – Retrieved May 18th 2010
  8. ^ Bonebright, Denise (February 2010). "40 years of storming: a historical review of Tuckman's model of small group development". Human Resource Development International. 13 (1): 111–120. doi:10.1080/13678861003589099. S2CID 144331444.
  9. ^ Rickards, T., & Moger, S.T., (1999) Handbook for creative team leaders, Aldershot, Hants: Gower
  10. ^ Rickards, T., & Moger, S., (2000) ‘Creative leadership processes in project team development: An alternative to Tuckman’s stage model’, British Journal of Management, Part 4, pp273-283
  11. ^ White A, From Comfort Zone to Performance Management, 2009, White & MacLean Publishing
  12. ^ a b c d e Manges, Kirstin; Scott-Cawiezell, Jill; Ward, Marcia M. (2017-01-01). "Maximizing Team Performance: The Critical Role of the Nurse Leader". Nursing Forum. 52 (1): 21–29. doi:10.1111/nuf.12161. ISSN 1744-6198. PMID 27194144.
  13. ^ Kennedy, Rachel, PMP. "Tuckman Ladder: 5 Stages of Team Development". All Things Project Management. Retrieved 2022-10-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Further reading[edit]

  • Tuckman, Bruce (1965). "Developmental sequence in small groups". Psychological Bulletin. 63 (6): 384–399. doi:10.1037/h0022100. PMID 14314073. Reprinted with permission in Group Facilitation, Spring 2001
  • White, Alasdair A. K. "From Comfort Zone to Performance Management" 2009 White & MacLean Publishing ISBN 978-2-930583-01-3 [1]
  • Blanchard, Ken and Parisi-Carew, Eunice, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams, William Morrow, 2009.'
  • Manges, K., Scott‐Cawiezell, J., & Ward, M. M. (2016, May). Maximizing Team Performance: The Critical Role of the Nurse Leader. In Nursing forum.