The most commonly accepted model of team building, developed by Dr. Bruce Tuckman, consists of four primary stages. The model was created in the mid-1960s, and in the early 1970s Tuckman added a fifth stage to his model. The model is based on the fact that teams must feel each other out, work out conflicts, and set aside their differences before they can become an effective unit. The five stages are forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.


The forming stage is when the group is created. Everyone is new to each other and feeling one another out. At this stage, the leader is relied on heavily to maintain order and keep the group on task. The team members may be hesitant to voice their input. They may also test the resolve of their leader to see what they can and cannot get away with. Relationships start forming at this stage.


At this stage, each team member has a general idea of how the other team members operate. Differences are brought into the open, and cliques may form at opposite ends around these issues. Group members will also quarrel amongst themselves to set a pecking order or a hierarchy of members; sometimes, a member will challenge the leader in an attempt to attain her position within the team. The team will gain confidence with the help of the leader. The leadership style in this stage should be similar to coaching.


In the norming stage, ground rules are established. Group members have brought their concerns out into the open and their differences have been resolved, often through some form of compromise. The leader takes a less influential role and lets the group to work together as a unit. The overall identity of the group takes shape, and each player finds her role within the unit. Motivation naturally increases at this stage as results come more easily.


The group finally begins to perform at its optimal level. People know each other’s roles and learn how to pick up the slack when one team member lags behind. At this stage, the team has a sense of purpose and direction. The leader delegates responsibilities with the knowledge that she is giving the correct person the correct job. A sense of team is evident, and members look out for one another. Decisions are made on the go, often not by the leader.


This stage comes when the task has been completed and the team is disbanded. Questions about where the next step will lead may reduce motivation and increase tension. Often group members will feel a sense of disappointment when the team is adjourned. Sometimes this stage is followed by another project; when this happens, re-forming occurs and the process starts over.