Team development is a crucial aspect of project management. While various models describe this process, the Tuckman’s ladder model provides a particularly comprehensive understanding. It outlines the stages of team development, highlighting how project managers can navigate these phases to build effective teams.
What Defines a Team?
The metaphor of a team becomes clear when you consider a group of individuals working towards a common purpose or goal. This concept distinguishes a team from a working group where individuals perform defined tasks repetitively without a shared purpose. In a project context, the team member’s boundaries might be less stringent, with team members working towards a common goal of achieving project objectives and scopes. Therefore, project managers need to create a team with a shared purpose.
Understanding the Tuckman’s Ladder
Tuckman’s ladder describes the stages a team goes through as they develop, beginning with forming, storming, norming, performing, and finally adjourning. Here is an outline of these stages:
- Forming: This is the stage where individuals are brought together. Team members might be unclear about their roles and expectations, hence they observe and try to understand the new environment.
- Storming: With team members hailing from diverse backgrounds and experiences, conflicting views and unclear roles often lead to disagreements. The storming stage involves a lot of disagreements and arguments.
- Norming: After the storming phase, teams usually start to resolve their conflicts, leading to a clearer understanding of their roles. They start appreciating each other’s viewpoints and strengths, establishing norms for interaction and collaboration.
- Performing: This stage signifies a high level of trust and cooperation within the team. Team members are confident in sharing their weaknesses and asking for help, and they start to overlap their work areas. This stage marks the team’s peak productivity.
- Adjourning: The final stage, also added later in the model, refers to the disbandment of the team once the project concludes.
Project Manager’s Role in Team Development
A project manager’s role and behavior should change according to the team’s developmental stages.
- Forming: As a project manager, focus on clarifying roles and responsibilities, and imparting necessary training about the project’s lifecycle, management plan, and team’s vision.
- Storming: Employ your conflict management and communication skills to resolve conflicts and promote team building activities. The aim is to develop understanding and appreciation of diverse perspectives within the team.
- Norming: At this stage, give the team more autonomy and challenge them to strive towards the performing stage. Your role transitions from a director to a facilitator.
- Performing: This stage can only be reached when you, as a project manager, relinquish control and allow the team to handle conflicts and responsibilities.
- Adjourning: Here, the team disperses, and as a project manager, your role will be to ensure a smooth transition.
PMP Exam Tips
- Situational Questions: In your PMP exam, be prepared for situational questions related to Tuckman’s Ladder, where you need to select an appropriate action as a Project Manager based on the given team development stage.
- Action Based on Stage: Understand that a Project Manager’s role varies based on the team’s development stage. For instance, during the ‘Storming’ stage, focus on clarifying roles, building trust, and managing conflicts. During the ‘Performing’ stage, often step back to let the team find solutions.
- Application Across Project Lifecycles: Remember that the Tuckman’s model applies to all types of project life cycles, whether they are predictive, adaptive, or hybrid.
- Productivity Fluctuations: Be aware that team productivity is generally low during the ‘Forming’ and ‘Storming’ phases and tends to increase during the ‘Norming’ and ‘Performing’ stages.
- Cyclical Nature of Team Development: Understand that team development is not static; changes in team composition or external factors can trigger the cycle to restart, potentially returning the team to earlier stages.
- Effect of Adding Team Members: Exercise caution when considering team expansion. While adding a team member may seem like it would increase productivity, it may initially cause a decrease due to adjustment and acclimatization processes.
- Ongoing Role of Project Manager: Recognize the importance of the Project Manager’s continuous role in investing in team development to maintain the team at the ‘Performing’ stage.
- Assessment of Team Development Stage: As a Project Manager, perform formal or informal assessments to understand where your team stands in the development stage. Formal assessments may include surveys and evaluations, while informal assessments might involve observing team dynamics, conversation styles, and any potential issues.
The Tuckman model isn’t just an essential component of the PMP exam; it’s also a practical tool for managing actual projects and fostering team development. It’s crucial to understand the objectives of each stage to leverage this model effectively. The ultimate aim is to guide a collection of individuals towards becoming a high-performing team.
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