Through understanding the stages of group development, leaders are able to assess the needs, plan the direction and prepare for the future of the group. Also, understanding the theory of group development aids leaders in determining realistic expectations about group behavior. The Tuckerman Model of Group Development describes a group’s growth this way:
- Sequential — Stages occur in a specifically stated order.
- Developmental — Issues and concerns in each stage must be resolved in order for the group to move on to the next stage.
- Thematic — Each stage is characterized by two dominant themes, one reflecting the task dimension and one reflecting the relationship dimension.
INITIAL STAGE: FORMINGTask behavior is an attempt to become oriented to the goals and procedures of the group. Having plenty of information available is critical at this stage. Relationship issues revolve around resolving dependency issues and testing, which can be sped up by making leadership roles clear and getting the group acquainted.
SECOND STAGE: STORMINGInvolves resistance to task demands and hostility in relationships. Members challenge the group’s leadership. Leader should provide clarification about role. Excessive storming leads to anxiety and tension, whereas suppressed storming leads to resentment and bitterness. Conflict resolution is often the goal, but learning conflict management is just as important because, as new situations develop, the group may briefly return to this stage.
THIRD STAGE: NORMINGCharacterized by cooperation. Task themes include communication and expression, while cohesion is the relationship theme. Team building efforts increase group unity and increase shared responsibility.
FOURTH STAGE: PERFORMINGEncourages cooperation. Task theme is problem solving and the relationship theme is interdependence. At this stage, the group is functioning efficiently to achieve group goals. Group members will assume roles that are necessary to achieve goals, learning independence with dependence. It is beneficial to encourage a continued developmental theme for the group to stimulate new problems for their problem solving. While some group will try to jump from Forming to Performing to immediately accomplish a task, others will consistently revert to Storming after once being Norming. The thing to remember is that the stages are sequential; and, even if the group jumps around, the leader can still encourage and help the group no matter what stage the group is in or back in. After determining what stage the group is in, it would be good to meet with the officers and advisor(s) to make plans for group growth.
EFFECTIVE GROUP PRACTICES
- Members do not ignore or ridicule seriously intended contributions.
- Members check to make sure they know what a speaker means by a contribution before they agree to disagree.
- Each member speaks only for himself/herself, and lets others speak for themselves.
- All contributions are viewed as belonging to the group, to be used or not used as the group decides.
- All members participate, but in different and complementary ways.
- Whenever the group senses it is having trouble getting work done, it tries to find out why.
- People support what they help to create. The group makes decisions together and openly, rather than by default.
- The group attempts to make consensus decisions; however, when majority decisions are made, members accept it and work together, even if they may not have agreed with the majority decision.
- The group brings conflict into the open and deals with it.