The Psychology of Quality and More
If a group of people are simply thrown together, they are not likely to immediately start working as a coherent team. To reach the state where they all comfortably know one another, know the task and know their role, they often pass through several stages, as below.
Fig. 1. Team development stages
In the formation stage, the group comes together for the first time. The people may be excited or anxious about the task ahead and their part in it and thus tend to spend their time in investigation of both the problem and the other people in the team. Because the problem is not yet known and the other people unproven in their new roles, judgments are usually suspended at this stage.
As the group starts to work together, the reality of assumptions and plans are tested, and disagreement and disillusionment can result when things do not turn out to be going as smoothly as expected. This results in revision of people's views, both of one another and also of the task and process used.
A key feature of storming is the jostling for roles, such as leadership battles and determining who is the most expert or most experienced person in key areas.
Occasionally, groups never get past the storming stage for example where 'niceness' prevents disagreements from being publicly aired or where arguments are so violent that people leave the team or retreat inside themselves. It is a test of the leader's abilities in getting the team through this stage.
In the norming stage, roles and relationships become established and the group starts to move forwards on its task. People accept one another's personalities and start to focus more on the problem in hand.
Feelings at this stage tend to be ones of relief at having survived storming and being able to get down to work on the real problem. Normalization sometimes does not work well, as issues are not fully ironed out and the team may dip back into storming several times.
When personalities agree and activities are clarified, the team may then begin to really perform, focusing on the problem as a single unit. The real 'team' is born at this stage as a sense of friendliness and cooperation towards realistic goals develops. People know what they are doing and help one another selflessly as they work together towards team, rather than individual, objectives. It is at this stage that synergy becomes an effective tool, where the results of the group are noticeably better than might have been gained from working individually.
In practice, the degree to which teams perform will vary, and is often reflected in their results, which may range from the barely acceptable to a roaring success. Teams which perform well often survive in spirit well after the problem is solved and may re-form to work on other problems.
Beyond the Perform stage, the group dynamics still need to be maintained as, if the job gets too easy or too difficult, there may be a further deform stage where the group starts to break up through boredom or stress. If this is not recognized and corrected (for example by reforming the team), then the group may self-destruct through argument, apathy or attrition.
Occasionally, teams go beyond 'normal' performance to a state of high-performance. This is typified by an almost fanatical focus on the task (which may appear to others to be almost impossible), coupled with strong social bonds that include close personal friendship.
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