Wednesday 1 July 2020

Can The Tuckman Model Help Us Understand What is Happening?

Tuckman: there's something so perfectly simple about this model that means it's sometimes overlooked in favour of more complex stuff.....

....and I think that's a mistake!

First introduced in the mid 1960's, the Tuckman Model has been around a while and there's a good reason for that: it works! Developed to help us understand Team Development and Dynamics, this model and conversations it primes has been my "Go to" place in conversations with Teams, their Leaders and Managers in a number of contexts. Why? Well, it helps us to talk about what might be going on and to anticipate what might be on its way: there are 4 stages that help us form up and discuss our ideas, they are:
  • Forming
  • Norming
  • Storming 
  • Performing
More recently a 5th Stage "Adjourning" has been added-for the purposes of this piece I'm staying with the original 4.

One of the challenges presented by using a model is that we need to remind ourselves that our sometimes complex and rapidly shifting work patterns don't often if ever, follow neat diagrams. So I won't include one-you can find plenty of them on Google Images (other sites are available!)
Some years ago I came across a piece of work that had shown how the model can be applied to individual and team behaviour across a range of team processes and activities. I've adapted it and made 13 YouTube Videos that discuss how each of process can be seen within the context of the Tuckman Model and what this might mean for developing a better understanding of our behaviour(s) and expectations.

The table sets out "What's going on" in the right column, the links in the left column will take you to a commentary/overview of the context. They're brief no longer than 10 minutes and most are well below.






What do people focus on as change takes place?

How do we behave when we focus on what needs to be done? Whether thinking about the "big stuff" or agreeing on roles and operational area, our behaviours might define our contribution to the process. These are likely to be influenced by our individual and collective journeys within the Tuckman model. Here's an overview of what might be going on.


What is the “state of trust” at each stage?

We're going nowhere without it but how often do we consider how trust is affected by where we are at any particular point in our team journey? This clip gives some insights into how the concept of trust is subject to our relationship with change and our own securities/insecurities

“Team Relationships”

How might we expect relationships to change/grow/develop?

Divided, embittered and quarrelsome teams do not perform well. Ones with a sense of unity and purpose do. This clip builds on previous ideas of how we need to allow space to allow people to grow and develop through the relevant stages, establishing our values, ethics and behaviours as we so do. It's about trust & clarity, two essential "we're going nowhere fast without them," components of great teams.


What takes place and where, overt, covert or productive?

An ever present in our lives, Criticism has the power to be both destructive and creative. It can drive people apart or become part of the social adhesion that binds group members together. This clip talks about how Criticism might present within the four stages and its potential to contribute to positive group and individual journeys

“Decision Making”

How do we go about taking and making decisions?

We all know what this means, that doesn’t however mean that the process is easy to describe. What is our role in setting and maintaining the ethical climate in which decisions are made? Where does confidentiality rest and is it okay to “backtrack” when we need to?


“Sharing of Knowledge”

Who benefits? How and when is knowledge shared and why? 

Not hearsay or gossip but knowledge. What are the disadvantages to holding on to information that under any reasonable examination would be seen as critical to enabling progress? How does our behaviour here reflect organisational culture and can we articulate the benefits of “synergous sharing”?


What efforts and collaborations are involved in “Performance”?

There are important conversations to be had here and they’re not about “target setting.” They are concerned with how we describe our role purpose and outputs in the context of achieving flow and excellence.


How can we benefit from and go beyond predictability?

Arguably, we like a balance where life (work), is predictable enough. Too predictable and boredom takes over, ever changing relentless shifts in predictability? Expect burnout. Reaching a place where we anticipate and adjust quite naturally is a challenge for leaders and their teams.


How well do we understand purpose and direction?

The greater clarity we can achieve here, the more likely it is that we will achieve some great outcomes! Ambiguity is welcome, it helps us decide the degrees of certainty under which we operate and that enables us to be more confident in developing and projecting a confident, flexible approach to how our role is both developed by ourselves and perceived by others.


When we consider our outputs, what is going on at each stage?

Our outputs aren't limited to "work done", there are outputs related to our behaviours, our connectivity and commitment. Here, we open some discussion with the watch-phrase "keep your eyes on the outputs!"


“Interventions” (Overview)

When do interventions occur and how are they delivered? 

Interventions: Hands on/Hands off-they’re by no means mutually exclusive and there are times in the development cycle when we shift from one to the other. When we think about our actions in the context of the Tuckman Model, things may become clearer.

“Interventions” (Support)

As confidence and competence grows, support changes

A linear process? Not really and we might need to consider the information as part of our responses to change and a blend of leadership skills and approaches.

“Interventions” (Leader Focus”

At what point and for what purpose should leaders intervene?

At what point and for what purpose should leaders intervene? Here we take a look at the importance of the leader maintaining focus and awareness of the dynamics that might be at work within teams. We refer again to the importance of clarity and conversations that create clarity.


I'm happy to have a conversation with you about the model and how it might be used in your place of work. It's my belief that it has strong messages outside of the workplace too.
You can reach me on 07984409937 or mail me:

I'm sometimes asked why I use the Butterfly image-the link takes you to a brief explanation!


John Dooner. DY 3Solutions.