Bruce Tuckman Stages of Group Development

What are the Bruce Tuckman stages of group development, and how does it apply to Scrum Projects? In 1965, Bruce Tuckman composed a definitive research study on the nature of Teams and Group Dynamics. His study was Titled “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups”. This study was based upon Team behaviour in the United States Navy. The study was revised and updated in 2001. The initial Document explained Four Stages of Team Maturity. This model has become a classic in the description of Teams. The Tuckman Theory has actually found appeal in Agile Development. This is due to the fact that it can be used to the typical Agile Team. This is particularly the case where Scrum is being applied:-.

  • The Team is small. A typical Scrum Team includes 7 people.
  • Initially, they do not understand each other. The prevalence of setting up new Teams and then disbanding them on conclusion of a Project create this situation in Agile Development.
  • The Team members have varying skills and experience, however all are meant to play their part.
  • The Team’s Performance enhances as the Project progresses.

Bruce Tuckman Stages of Group Development: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

Initially Tuckman described Four Stages of Team Development. IA Fifth Stage was added, which we will talk about later on. The Four Stages are:-.

1. ‘Forming’ – Where the Team is introduced and begin to learn about each other.

2.’Storming’ – A stressful Stage where conflicts emerge and Team members challenge each other. There is little cohesion at this stage.

3.’Norming’ – Differences are accepted and the Team learns to Work with one another.

4.’Performing’ – The Team performs as a cohesive and efficient unit.

What essentially takes place throughout these four stages is the Development of trust in each other. This begins with little and no trust upon being introduced. The team can then reach a level where Team members feel they can count on other members of the Team. There is no guarantee that a Team will reach stage 4. Some Coaching is typically needed to help move the team through each stage. Tuckman’s Model is an astute observation of Teams. The model Works for Agile Development Teams along with sports Teams.

Bruce Tuckman Stages of Group Development: Forming the Scrum Team.

The Scrum Project starts and the Team are introduced to each other. An overview of the Project is explained to the team members. At this stage the level of understanding of what the Deliverables are is at its lowest. Trust between Team members is also at its lowest at this point. It is often stated that the “Forming” Stage is quick, but it needs to never be skimped. An Agile Project helps to lay a good foundation during the Forming Stage by:-

  • clearly defining what the overall Objective and Goals are.
  • “chunking” the Product into small and Manageable Work packets of the Sprint.
  • having a Flexible Approach to Roles within the Team. This is with the exception of the Scrum Master and the Product Owner (the Voice of the Customer).
  • the Product Owner and Scrum Master Roles and Responsibilities are clearly defined. These roles and responsibilities are well understood by Scrum Team members who have been on previous Scrum Projects.

It is a good idea to create some branding for the Team. This could include the Team name and accessories, and a dedicated Workspace if possible. A major obstacle to Team Formation and Maturation is the case of remote Team members. For example, if there is an Offshore Testing Team. Definition of Team Values and rules of engagement is likewise recommended. This prepares the team for Stage 2, and strengthens the Team branding.

The Team is Storming – Conflict and Stress.

The Team has commenced Work on their first Sprint. This is a Political stage, where power struggles arise and there are personality clashes. It is important to Manage these conflicts without suppressing them. Some Team members prefer to avoid conflict, but it is necessary to clear the air generally. Alternatively, there will usually be a Team member who wants to take control and enforce their ideas on the rest of the Team. What ought to emerge from stage 2 is a Team that can reach a consensus.

First prize is a Team that gets past Stage 2 during its first Sprint. It typically takes more than 1 Iteration to get to the level where the Team cooperates. One of the mechanisms that is frequently mentioned as an aid to moving beyond stage 2 is the use of “Planning Poker” to determine the level of difficulty of a Task. The different ratings are debated and agreed via this gamified technique which fosters cooperation. Hopefully, the Team moves naturally to the next stage; but it might require some Coaching intervention to get past the conflicts.

Now we are a Team – Norming.

Up to now, most of the Team interaction has been internalised. As soon as the Sprint gets to a Stage where everybody can Co-operate and Work together, it genuinely is a Team. There is an acknowledged common Goal and a rhythm to the Work. The Developers and Testers can Work in harmony and the understanding of the Product content and Deliverables grows.

It is possible that the Team does not mature past this point. There are factors such as the overall time taken for the Project, and the intricacy of remote Team members. The Team is adequately cohesive to Deliver what is needed. However, the Team is sufficiently cohesive to Deliver what is required. The Quality Requirements of the Project, where Acceptance Criteria must be achieved for each Sprint will ensure that the Product is Delivered according to specification. One of the primary drivers of a sports Team reaching this level is the awareness of Competition, which unites the Team. Where there are several Teams in an Agile Project, competing with the other Teams can be decisive in reaching stage 3, and even stage 4.

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Bruce Tuckman Stages of Group Development: Performing.

This is the Nirvana of Teamwork. The Team Works in harmony and introduces improvements to the Work Process. In Scrum, the holding of Sprint Retrospective Meetings identifies lessons learnt and uses those lessons to the next tranche of Work. By the time the last Sprint is started, the Team can be Working as a high-performance Team. They have actually Matured and moved to a level of skills that is far removed from where they began.

Stage 5 – Adjourning.

This Stage was added in 2001 to the original Four Stages and refers to the Disbanding of the Team. While this is common practice in Agile Development, and the Team might be Formed primarily of contractors, one can only question the wisdom of disposing of a Team Model that worked, particularly if it resulted in a high-performing Team. The Team has Worked through their initial conflicts and trust issues to Work together. Part of the Project time was devoted to becoming a Team – it is a pity to dispose of the bonding where the Team can Work easily together only to start again with the next Project.

Bruce Tuckman Stages of Group Development: Team Regression.

From the above description, it might be deduced that the Maturing of a Team is a natural development, however it is rather possible for a Team to regress back a stage, specifically where Team members leave or come in. It does not always mean that the Team starts all over once again at Stage 1, however it can happen. Scrum meetings such as the Daily standup meeting can help with identifying regression early, enabling the Scrum Master to step in.

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