Strategies For Effective Team Dynamics

Anyone familiar with theories on team dynamics knows Bruce W. Tuckman’s five stages of team development model. Developed in the mid-1960’s, this model identified specific milestones that were “necessary and inevitable” when building collaborative teams. Tuckman’s research set the framework for decades of effective leadership. But does Tuckman’s model hold up in the modern workplace? Today’s human resource managers have a new set of opportunities and challenges with the dynamics on their teams. Here are a few strategies to make Tuckman’s model relevant to your firm today:


The forming stage is the meet & greet to define team roles and responsibilities. HR managers can support this stage by encouraging team members to post a social profile on the company’s intranet that highlights their past successes. Understanding the team member’s strengths and experience is the first step to effectively delegating tasks. It also helps to know the team member’s preferred work styles and whether they work best in a collaborative or independent environment.


The storming phase deals with communication styles and interpersonal conflict. In a 2010 presentation to SHRM India, Dr. Frankie S. Jones, Ph.D. cites research that many teams use the wrong technology for discussing projects tasks, and this leads to conflicts. For example, using instant messages with too many recipients, or posting to Slack to solve urgent problems. The research also showed a lack of trust when there’s a delay in a team member’s response to an email. HR managers can assist by setting appropriate guidelines for using technology, and setting policies on who has the final authority in project related conflicts.


Norming is when the team takes ownership and begins to collaborate as a group. HR managers can use this stage as an opportunity to get feedback on what occurred in the storming phase, and how to minimize these types of conflicts in the future. This feedback can come in the form of a survey that asks about job satisfaction and engagement, or it can be informal discussions with team members. This is also an ideal time to re-evaluate the team’s skillsets and understand if the team needs any additional training or resources. Making sure your teams have access to all of the firm’s resources is the best way for HR managers to set their teams up for success.


Performing is measured by the team collectively making progress towards their project goals. HR managers can facilitate this stage by hosting 360° reviews to make sure the key leadership is meshing well with the team. SHRM’s 2015 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement report cited respectful treatment of employees at all levels and trust with senior management as a top contributor to employee satisfaction. Monitoring team dynamics on an ongoing basis is the best way for HR managers to make adjustments to keep their teams productive.


Adjourning is when the project comes to a close. HR managers can gain valuable insight by scheduling a post-project review meeting to learn about the project’s successes as well as opportunities to address in the future. HR managers may also be involved in setting procedures on how to archive a project, especially when there are legal requirements to retain certain documents.

While Tuckman’s model is still highly regarded, today’s HR managers need a fresh approach for building effective teams within their companies. By identifying the ways teams interact and grow in the modern workplace, HR managers can use a variety of tactics to keep their teams productive. Leveraging social networks will help the team get acquainted, and using technology wisely will offset potential conflicts. Set your teams up for success by proactively setting policies and providing the tools they need to achieve their project’s goals!