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Building a High Performing Team

Tuckmans Model

Most of us are aware of Tuckman’s 5 stages of team development. These stages provide us with an awareness of how humans typically interact when put together, to try and achieve something. When looking at these stages, experiences and data, one cannot deny the resemblance of a process. As with any process, should it not be subject to constant improvement? If the pinnacle is performing, how can we get there, and how can we get there faster.

First things first, we need to realize that Tuckman’s model is a stereotype.

Not all teams storm; and not all teams perform. Though each phase may be relevant, how can they be optimized to build a high performing team?


The forming of a team typically involves a directive, or in best case circumstances a collaboration. Forming is critical for establishing roles and responsibilities.

Best ways to form:

  • Reutilize existing teams

  • Be direct and honest upfront

  • Documentation of agreements

  • Establishing comprehensive team roles

  • Include squeaky wheels

  • Engage change management professionals such as iota


Often it is inevitable that personas will collide, particularly in newly formed teams, or when structures change. Adapting to new positions can cause a range of emotions and reactions in staff. This is where change management and corporate culture play an important role.

Remember - constructive feedback is always good feedback.

Try to avoid the storm:


At this stage, the team is getting along and starting to help each other. Most issues are resolved, but processes are not yet optimized. This stage can be likened to the development of a prototype, there are bound to some glitches, but the general outcomes are understood. Keep in mind that these stages are not set on guaranteed timelines, the bigger the storm, the longer to norm, and less likely to perform.

How to help normalize your team faster:


When a team is performing, they are not only at their most cost effective, but they are also happier. If you can get your team into the performing stage, you will get more outputs, have less attrition, and get more constructive ideas on how to improve further.

Reaching this stage does not always happen dependant on the team members and team purpose. As a manager, here are some of the things that might help get your team to performing:

  • Having achievable goals

  • Having work/life balance

  • Fair compensation and financial rewards based on performance

  • Having a training and development plan


Closure of the team is typically tapered and you should have a plan set for when key members will no longer be required. Adjourning too soon can lead to project failure, and it is much harder to get team members back if they have been reassigned. During this step, we close procurements, perform final evaluation, capture lessons learned, hopefully help team members find their team.

Understanding Tuckman’s Stages better

While generic and digestible, the stages are not typical of most team development in the real world. Because in reality, team members leave, get swapped, get poached, or get hit by buses. Where the value in the model is, is understanding which stage each of your team members are. Some may be performing while stormers are holding them back.

Once we understand the model as a non-linear process, rather an ongoing development, we can understand our teams dynamic, respond to their current needs and provide the service they need from us better.


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