Teamwork and Collaboration
Teams are central to most workplaces these days – we don’t just work as an individual or as part of a “department”, but as part of a team – often we may be a member of several teams at once, some long-term and ongoing, others short-term.
Perhaps the most well-known model concerning team development was developed by Bruce Tuckman in the 1960’s. He suggested that every new team progresses through four phases (and even existing teams facing new leadership or major change will do the same). These phases are:
FORMING … When any team comes together its members typically go through a phase of getting acquainted, working out “where everyone’s coming from”, what the shared expectations are, and what the boundaries are for performance, behavior and processes. The essence of the forming stage is getting to know the other team members and how the team can best work together. It’s often a time of optimism and energy.
STORMING … Because teams are typically still somewhat “immature” (in the sense of not having much experience at working in this particular configuration on this particular task) it is common for clashes or sharp differences of opinion or approach to arise once the team starts attempting to actually produce. The “honeymoon” is over and in the grind of day-to-day tasks and pressures it’s common for frustration, disappointment or confusion to be expressed at this phase.
NORMING … At this stage the team develops (formally or informally, explicitly or implicitly) its ground rules and begins to cooperate more effectively. Things start to function more smoothly as people collaborate with more confidence and the team builds its sense of identity and purpose.
PERFORMING … For the teams that make it to this stage, the performance phase is the “pay-off” for all that earlier work. Team strengths and weaknesses are understood, team members interact with a minimum of fuss because they understand each other better and productivity is high. Constructive criticism is given and received well and the team is focused in its problem solving approaches.
The Teamworking Pocketbook focuses not only on Tuckman’s phases but on how to maximize overall team performance. It therefore looks at the differences between groups and teams and between teambuilding and teamworking, the types of problems preventing teams from being effective, and offers plenty of practical advice for countering such difficulties.