Stages of Group Development

Although there are countless underlying reasons for someone's membership in a given group, the work of Bruce Tuckman suggests that groups progress through a relatively consistent series of stages or phases in their development. Forming refers to a phase of coming together and orientation. Group members become acquainted with one another and define the requirements of group membership as well as the tasks to be performed. Storming refers to a phase of polarization and conflict. During this phase, group members deal with disagreements, compete for attractive positions within the group, and may become dissatisfied with other group members or the group as a whole. Norming refers to a phase when conflicts are solved and group members arrive at agreements regarding definitions of tasks and the requirements of group membership. Performing refers to the phase when group members concentrate on achieving their major task and strive toward shared goals. Finally, for some groups, adjourning refers to the disbanding or dissolution of the group after task completion.

For example, consider a special task force created to search for a missing child. During the forming stage, the members of this group will volunteer for, or be appointed to, the group. Although the general goals and definition of the group may have been established with the decision to implement such a task force, a storming phase would occur that would lead the group members into the sometimes difficult task of defining specific procedures of operation, responsibilities of particular task force members, a functional hierarchy, and so on. The norming phase would represent the resolution of the polarizations that emerged during the storming phase, as the committee proceeded to establish an agenda, a decision structure, and a means of implementing decisions. During the performing phase, the task force would actually perform the tasks agreed upon during the norming phase. Having finished its task, the group would then be adjourned.

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