Six Sigma Green Belt—Define: Stages of Team Development

Another important topic in the Define phase of DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) in Six Sigma is that of team dynamics and performance. One of the subtopics to be addressed in this topic is that of how teams develop in the first place.

The American psychologist Bruce Tuckman did research in the theory of group dynamics, and in 1965 came up with his 4 stages of group or team development, to which he added a fifth stage in 1977.

The following is a chart which sums up these stages. Notice that the role of the manager changes with each stage, from a relatively “hands on” approach at first to a more supervisory role, and finally to someone who recognizes achievement of the team and of individuals.

Stage Description Role of Manager
1. Forming Team meets, agrees on general goals. Members still conceive of themselves as individuals. Direct work
2. Storming Different members put forward ideas that compete for adoption by the group. Members start opening up to other members’ perspectives. Tolerance and patience must be emphasized to resolve differences. Conflict resolution
3. Norming Mutual plan is agreed upon by the team. Members sacrifice some of their ideas to make the team function. Team members start to identify with group and have ambition to work together for success of the team’s goals. Facilitate decisions
4. Performing Team members now identify as a well-functioning unit. Mentor and coach
5. Adjourning/


Team breaks up. Achievements are recognized. Lessons are learned for the next project. Reward/ recognize achievement

The Adjourning/Transforming stage was the one that Tuckman created in 1977. The importance of this for project management is that it is where a review of the project both in its positive aspects (rewarding) and negative aspects (lessons learned for future projects) takes place.

These stages are not what every team goes through; they represent the potential stages of growth. . It is certainly possible that a team may stay in the stage of Storming (stage 2) during the entire project. The group may start coming together in the Norming stage, but never achieve that focused intensity as a group marked by the Performing Stage. Since all projects have an end, the team will break up, but it is up to the manager to make sure the recognition of achievement and review of lessons learned takes place.


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