At the Alliance, we believe teams play a critical role in driving innovation within local governments. Our memberhship model is largely built off this notion. Every Alliance membership provides organization-wide access to all staff since innovation isn’t limited to just one department. Ideas grow within your organization and hopefully spread due to cross functionality and understanding the different perspectives (and needs) around you! For those that have gone through our Innovation Academy (which is enrolling for 2018-2019 sessions now), you will recall teams can be homogenous or diverse, but all need some core competencies and structure in order to produce results and, ultimately, be enjoyabe for those involved.
In this short post, I wanted to begin looking at some ways you can better arrange teams within your organization or department. This isn’t necessarily an exact science, but a subject that has been examined for decades. There is still much to learn, so if you have some insights, please share in the comments section below.
First and foremost, be patient and accept there is a developmental process at hand. Once the team players have been selected, a natural group dynamic should be developed and put place in order to get to those desired results. In 1965, Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first came up with the memorable phrase "forming, storming, norming, and performing."1
- Forming: As Tuckman described this initial phase; “Groups initially concern themselves with orientation accomplished primarily through testing. Such testing serves to identify the boundaries of both interpersonal and task behaviors.”1 The new team is looking to establish their roles in the group and better understand the skills of their teamates.
- Storming: Here’s where the testing becomes a bit more…intense. Perhaps some of the ‘testing’ of boundaries have gone too far or work styles are not meshing well at first. Knowing this is part of a larger process, be reassured that this is important stage to get through.
- Norming: As the group reacts to the issues that arose in storming phase, standards are set for how the group will function. Since every team is unique, these standards will be unique in that they are a product of the work styles, strengths, and personalities that may have clashed during ‘Storming.’
- Performing: The final stage occurs once the team members have adjusted and acquiesced to the team norms. Here, we find the team able focus on tasks and work to effectively complete them. Or, as Tuckman described, “Structural issues have been resolved, and structure can now become supportive of task performance.”1
Now, this process is not set in stone, but it can serve us in our understanding of building better teams. Avoiding conflict will not help produce better results. Often “we have a tendency to want to surround ourselves with people who are just like us.”2 When building teams, it should be more
about completing the puzzle than social comfort. Using staff strengths and skills and filling in the gaps with others will be to great effect.
To learn more about this team developmental process, check the websites Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming norming and performing in groups and Team Development - Meaning, Stages and Forming an Effective Team.
We will continue to explore and share these ideas around innovation and teams. But in the meantime, what are some ‘team’ lessons you have learned from your expereince? What makes a great team?
1 Smith, M. K. (2005). ‘Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming, norming and performing in groups, the encyclopaedia of informal education. [http://infed.org/mobi/bruce-w-tuckman-forming-storming-norming-and-perfo.... Retrieved: May 2, 2018].
2 Juneja, Prachi. Management Study Guide. ‘Team Development - Meaning, Stages and Forming an Effective Team’. [https://www.managementstudyguide.com/team-development.htm. Retrieved: May 2, 2018