Forming. Storming. Norming. And the other one… the lesser known history of Tuckman’s team model
Forming. Storming. Norming. Performing. You may well have heard these stages of group maturity before, but do you know where the theory came from?
This article is inspired by the Teamcraft podcast episode, available wherever you get your pods.
In 1965 a young psychologist, freshly minted with a PhD from Princeton, joined the Naval Medical Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. His role as a research psychologist was to investigate the best team behaviours for small crews on naval vessels. Handed a stack of fifty research papers to pore through for clues, his groundbreaking analysis resulted in the model that was to make him famous; Bruce Tuckman’s ‘Stages of Group Development’.
Tuckman’s four stages (later joined by a fifth, ‘adjourning’), known as the Tuckman Team Model, is never far from being mentioned in any conversation about teams. Most managers have heard of ‘storming, norming, something, something’, but haven’t heard of the man who invented it, or looked into the fascinating history behind his most famous model.
This article isn’t so much an explanation of what Tuckman’s model is, as it is an exploration of how a slightly misunderstood concept has become such a common reference point in understanding teamwork. Here we delve into the origins, implications, and the nuanced journey through the stages of this influential model.
The history of the Tuckman Model
Bruce Tuckman grew up in New York, gaining his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1960, and his PhD from Princeton in 1963. Having received his PhD, he joined the US Naval Medical Institute in Bethesda, Maryland as a research psychologist.
At the time, the group that Tuckman joined was researching the behaviour of groups crewing small naval vessels. Handed a stack of fifty articles by his supervisor to review, Tuckman set to work on analysing the papers, and his 1965 paper “The Developmental Sequence in Small Groups,” introduced the now well known forming, storming, norming, and performing stages of team development.
I was fortunate to have an experienced and talented…