Theories of Team Development

Team development is an ongoing process as team composition may continue to change. New members can join and old members can leave the team. Team members go through several stages for team development and there has been a lot of research to identify these stages. In this article, we discuss common theories of team development.

The team is formed as a result of the interactions and influence of members striving to achieve a common goal. After formation, teams take time to develop and usually follow easily recognizable stages, as team members grow from a group of strangers to a unified, integrated team pursuing a common goal. In this process, team members try to understand each other, realize the relevance of team members’ behavior and roles. A team is not simply formed by declaring a few individuals as a team. Much research has been conducted on the formation and development of groups, and various theories of group development have been suggested. Below is a list of commonly known theories on team/group development:

  • Bennis and Shepard, 1956;
  • Bion, 1961;
  • Gibb, 1964;
  • Schutz, 1958, 1982;
  • Tuckman, 1965;
  • Tuckman and Jensen, 1977;
  • Yalom, 1970;
  • Tuckman, 1977;
  • Kormanski and Mozenter, 1987;

We will now discuss some popular theories of team development in detail:

Tuckman’s Five Stage Team Development Model:

Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first coined the memorable phrase “Form, Storm, Normalize, and Play” in 1965. The “Form – Bust – Normalize – Perform” model of group development held that these phases are all necessary and inevitable for the team to grow, to face challenges, to solve problems, to find solutions, to plan work and to produce results. This model became the basis for later models. He used it to describe the path to high performance that most teams follow. Later he added a fifth stage which he called “postponement”. Let’s briefly learn the five steps:

Forming: This is the first stage of team development. At this stage, members try to explore and understand the behavior of team members. They strive to understand the expectations of team members. At this point, they’re polite and trying to figure out how to fit in with the team.

Assault: In the second stage, members begin to compete for status, leadership and control of the group. Individuals understand the behavior of others and assert their role in the group. As a result, an interpersonal conflict begins. Members attempt to resolve work-related and labor relations issues. They also solve problems related to the role of the individual in the group.

Standard : The limbs begin to move coherently. They strike a balance between various conflicting forces. They develop group norms and consensus for achieving the group goal. At this stage, cooperative feelings develop between team members.

Execution : At this stage, the team is making efforts for the execution of the task and the achievement of the objectives. The established pattern of relationships improves coordination and helps resolve conflict. The members trust each other and offer their full cooperation for the achievement of the group’s objective.

Adjournment: As you must be aware that the team is formed for a purpose. When this objective is met, the team can be adjourned. Thus, the dissolution of the team is qualified as adjournment.

Kormanski & Mozenter (1987) Stages of team development:

Kormanski & Mozenter (1987) integrated the different theories and suggested the next steps in team development. These steps are sequential (each step is followed by the next). Each step has a task outcome and a relationship outcome. Kormanski and Mozenter identified the following stages of team development:

  1. Sensitization
  2. Conflict
  3. Cooperation
  4. Productivity, and
  5. Separation

1. Awareness: At this stage, individuals get to know each other. By knowing the team’s goals, they are committed to achieving them. The members get to know each other and agree to work together for a goal of which they have sufficient knowledge.

2. Conflict: At the first stage (awareness) the members know the objectives of the team and agree to work together; but that is at the surface level. In the second stage, they search and start asking questions. Accordingly, several points are clarified. They also fight with each other and in this process of interaction resolve any hostilities they might have, resulting in the feeling of belonging to the group.

3. Cooperation: In the third stage, members take ownership of the team’s goals and commit to those goals. Having resolved the feelings, they also support each other.

4. Productivity: This is the stage of actually achieving goals/results, and team members who achieve these goals take pride in their accomplishment.

5. Separation: Having the goals or outcomes, some task-specific teams may decide to disband, or a time-limited deadline is coming to an end. Excellent work done by members is recognized and team members have a high sense of satisfaction working with each other. This is the step of closing the team, or closing a task the team was working on.

The following table provides a summary of the task results and relationship results at each stage, as defined in the model:

A model of Team Building



Task result

Relationship Outcome





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