The importance of agile teams can never be underestimated. It has been proven time and again that agile teams are able to better work together and cultivate higher productivity as well as develop greater work experience. But such teams are not built overnight and they certainly are not inherently capable of working together from day 1. Gathering a set of individuals who each have a unique set of skills combined with varied personalities and hoping that they will work in collaboration would be an incorrect assumption. These individuals need to be nurtured and developed to perform as a team.
Agile teams are therefore crucial for a successful company. It is an exciting way to change how your employees work together. Which is where team development comes in. Also the initiative is not restricted to large multinationals as it is equally important for smaller startups. There are various ways that companies can initiate to focus on team development and establish agile teams to ultimately ensure they get amazing results on consistent basis. One of the more proven ways is by leveraging on psychologist Bruce Tuckman’s 5 stages of team development.
Bruce Tuckman’s concept of team development
Bringing together a group of individuals to work in collaboration forms the very first step. They need to primarily focus on defining and assigning tasks, establishing a schedule, organizing the team’s work, and other initiatives that their managers delegate. Apart from focusing on the scope of the team’s purpose and determining the best way to approach it, these members simultaneously gather information about each other and form impressions accordingly. During this period they are known to usually avoid any sort of conflicts as they want to be accepted by others. In some cases a few members may begin to work on their tasks independently and refrain from getting to know their teammates.
Forming a team is the easiest step. What comes next is what matters to organisational productivity. In this stage team members seek clarity about their goals and related initiatives. They need explicit guidance about when to work independently and when to work collectively. Thus this is a period known as storming as it largely involves brainstorming ideas. The result is that it usually leads to disruption of previously set methods. Here the team members initiate discussion and share ideas about ways to perform their roles and responsibilities. They listen to each other’s ideas and confront wherever there are clash of perspectives.
As storming can get intense at times, typically team members who do not like conflict, may find the process unpleasant. It could reduce their desire to contribute and also focus their attention away from the actual issues that need to be discussed. It is difficult to determine whether a conflict will be resolved amicably or will it go on endlessly. The latter situation occurs when nobody is willing to compromise and is persistent about following through with their own ideas. Although this can usually be avoided by being patient and considerate toward your team members.
Moving on from the brain storming stage, team members develop their purpose and strategy for achieving their goals. This is a brief period where everyone is focused on developing shared values and determine ways to best work together. These steps involve deciding on what modes of communication to use, such as e-mail vs slack, ways to conduct team meetings (stand-ups vs regular) and most importantly what measures should one resort to in case of conflicts. All steps lead to simplification of team collaboration, since members have shared expectations about how to get things done.
As all the norms are finally established, and the team can function together as a unit, it enters the performing stage. In this stage team members are able to easily work together on interdependent tasks. It also gets easy for them to communicate and coordinate with each other in an effective manner. Many time-consuming distractions are reduced that are typically caused by group dynamics. Thus psychological safety is assured and motivation runs high which helps team members be confident that they will definitely achieve their goals as decided.
The last stage i.e. the adjourning stage is the stage where the group breaks up, mostly on successful achievement of their goals. Team members are then free to move on to the next set of activities and goals, with a significant sense of achievement and satisfaction. By this point the team members may have formed a close bond and work best together. Keeping in mind this sensitivity can be highly beneficial from an organizational perspective. In some cases this group could also be averse to change and develop a sense of insecurity on being added to a different team. Although in this case the team begins the entire process from the start as it reverts back to the forming stage to absorb the change.
To summarize, the process to form agile teams remains the same more or less. Although the variables (individuals, roles) may keep on changing over the course of time. They will, however be able to quickly respond to changing norms in the market and work together with a sense of urgency to better deliver results.