Managing the Storming Drop

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The Tuckman model states that there are several typical development stages a team goes through. But knowing the existence of these phases is not enough. Knowing how to identify them and what to do about them is the real power for improving your team.

If we look at the drawing – it maps the development phases to the performance of the team over time.

The phases:
👉 Forming – the team knows the common goal and the fact that team members will interact with and depend on each other to complete this goal.
👉 Storming – the moment when things go down… This phase is full of uncertainties (people don’t know what to do) and conflicts (for roles, ideas, and power).
👉 Norming – the moment where people have clarity and agreement. The team has synchronized on the ways of working.
👉 Performing – the team is productive as it knows what to do and does it together, in an aligned manner.

Now, there are a few important aspects of this picture.

First, the phases are not static. They don’t happen once. Over time there are some micro-events that occur and they trigger the team to repeat some of the phases.

Second, the drop that occurs because of the Storming phase is natural. It’s not that the best teams don’t have such drops. On the contrary – they have more drops but know how to manage them.

Third, you should be aware of the phase you are in and communicate it properly within the team.

Great teams know how to manage the Storming drop so that it is not that deep and it doesn’t last that much time.

How to identify the different stages and what to do while they happen:

👉 Forming – Why are we together?

Any change of the members of the team (in or out), change of the roles of people, or change of the goal will put the team in a forming phase. Here it’s crucial to make the bigger picture clear.

👉 Storming – Do we know what we are doing?

You are in this phase if you have any conflict (healthy or not), debating on different points of view, any uncertainty. Moreover, micro-events that occur will trigger this phase. If you have a bad delivery on Friday, if you have a person on sick leave, if someone suggests a process improvement – this could derail you from your normal ways of working. In this phase, the most important thing to do is to listen and to allow people to speak. It’s a phase where it’s important that every person is heard and different ideas are put into a discussion. It’s natural that it will be uncomfortable or even painful. It’s normal that people will have different ideas on how to proceed. If someone is not heard in this phase and his opinion is not taken into account – whatever decision is made, people might not be committed.

👉 Norming – We know what we are doing.

The norming phase is a natural consequence of the storming phase. If you are trying to choose a common approach – then you are trying to norm. This is the phase where things get clear to everyone. Most teams suck at this phase as they don’t have a decision-making process. If you want to be quick – establish a clear decision-making process that everyone agrees to follow and then you’ll be able to synchronise on differences in an instant.

👉 Performing – We are doing it!

At last! It actually feels great to work! You are in the zone! Things flow smoothly! We are delivering results. Everyone knows what they are doing and we can count on each other. The ways of working are clear, the standards are clear and everyone is following them. This is the phase where it’s crucial for team members not to avoid accountability. As things are clear – people should remind each other (or even correct each other) when someone is not following what’s agreed. Enjoy the performing phase while it lasts 🙂

To sum up – even if you don’t know these stages – they happen. Teams tend to get better even if they don’t manage them.

But if you want your team to excel faster – manage the Storming drop.

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