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The Essence of Team Dynamics Disscussion

The Essence of Team Dynamics Disscussion

Question Description

I’m working on a writing discussion question and need the explanation and answer to help me learn.

Consider the stages of team development from the Learning Activity titled “Team Dynamics.” According to the reading, what is the first stage and what are some questions to ask during the first stage? What are some additional questions, other than those listed in the reading, that you might ask? Next, what would you do if the team process you were involved in was not progressing through the storming phase? Why is it important for organizations and teams to recognize that conflict is inevitable, according to Gersick’s model in the Learning Activity? Finally, in what ways can team conflict possibly be beneficial?

Team Dynamics


Teams progress through a series of stages, and each stage is characterized by dynamics that can either strengthen or weaken them. Leaders are responsible for ensuring that the dynamics serve to strengthen their teams. As you read this section, try to think of additional ways to strengthen a team within each stage and record your thoughts in your Learning Journal. This is a great way to prepare for your Final Assessment, which asks you to write a paper on the dynamics of team building.

Stages of Team Development

Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing

American organizational psychologist Bruce Tuckman presented a robust model in 1965 that is still widely used today. Based on his observations of team behavior in a variety of settings, he proposed a four-stage map of team evolution, also known as the forming-storming-norming-performing model (Tuckman, 1965). Later he enhanced the model by adding a fifth and final stage, the adjourning phase. Interestingly enough, just as an individual moves through developmental stages such as childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, so does a team, although in a much shorter period of time.

According to this theory, in order to successfully facilitate a team, the leader needs to move through various leadership styles over time. Generally, this is accomplished by first being more directive, eventually serving as a coach, and later, once the team is able to assume more power and responsibility for itself, shifting to a delegator. While research has not confirmed that this is descriptive of how teams progress, knowing and following these steps can help teams be more effective. For example, teams that do not go through the storming phase early on will often return to this stage toward the end of the team process to address unresolved issues. Another example of the validity of the team development model involves teams that take the time to get to know each other socially in the forming stage. When this occurs, teams tend to handle future challenges better because the individuals have an understanding of each other’s needs.

Stages of the Team Development ModelStages of the Team Development ModelReprinted with permission from Organizational behavior. Section 9.2, by T. Bauer, 2010, New York, NY: Flat World Knowledge, Inc.


In the forming stage, the team comes together for the first time. The members may already know each other or they may be total strangers. In either case, there is a level of formality, some anxiety, and a degree of guardedness as team members are not sure what is going to happen next. “Will I be accepted? What will my role be? Who has the power here?” These are some of the questions participants think about during this stage of team formation. Because of the large amount of uncertainty, members tend to be polite, conflict avoidant, and observant. They are trying to figure out the “rules of the game” without being too vulnerable. At this point, they may also be quite excited and optimistic about the task at hand, perhaps experiencing a level of pride at being chosen to join a particular team. Team members are trying to achieve several goals at this stage, although this may not necessarily be done consciously.

First, they are trying to get to know each other. Often this can be accomplished by finding some common ground. Members also begin to explore team boundaries to determine what will be considered acceptable behavior. “Can I interrupt? Can I leave when I feel like it?” This trial phase may also involve testing the appointed leader or seeing if a leader emerges from the team. At this point, team members are also discovering how the team will work in terms of what needs to be done and who will be responsible for each task. This stage is often characterized by abstract discussions about issues to be addressed by the team; those who like to get moving can become impatient with this part of the process. This phase is usually short in duration, perhaps a meeting or two.


Once team members feel sufficiently safe and included, they tend to enter the storming phase. Participants focus less on keeping their guard up as they shed social façades, becoming more authentic and more argumentative. Team members begin to explore their power and influence, and they often stake out their territory by differentiating themselves from the other team members rather than seeking common ground. Discussions can become heated as participants raise contending points of view and values, or argue over how tasks should be done and who is assigned to them. It is not unusual for team members to become defensive, competitive, or jealous. They may even take sides or begin to form cliques within the team. Questioning and resisting direction from the leader is also quite common. “Why should I have to do this? Who designed this project in the first place? Why do I have to listen to you?” Although little seems to get accomplished at this stage, team members are becoming more authentic as they express their deeper thoughts and feelings. What they are really exploring is “Can I truly be me, have power, and be accepted?” During this chaotic stage, a great deal of creative energy that was previously buried is released and available for use, but it takes skill to move the team from storming to norming. In many cases, the team gets stuck in the storming phase.

The storming phase of team development can involve conflict. It’s the period when a team can be off task; members are uncertain and/or cannot find agreement. There are several steps you can take to avoid getting stuck in the storming phase and move your team from the storming phase to the norming phase of team development.

Try the following if you feel the team process you are involved in is not progressing:

  • Normalize conflict. Let members know this is a natural phase in the team-formation process.
  • Be inclusive. Continue to make all members feel included and invite all views into the room. Mention how diverse ideas and opinions help foster creativity and innovation.
  • Make sure everyone is heard. Facilitate heated discussions and help participants understand each other.
  • Support all team members. This is especially important for those who feel more insecure.
  • Remain positive. This is a key point to remember about the team’s ability to accomplish its goal.
  • Don’t rush the team’s development. Remember that working through the storming stage can take several meetings. Once team members discover that they can be authentic and that the team is capable of handling differences without dissolving, they are ready to enter the next stage, norming.


“We survived!” is the common sentiment at the norming stage. Team members often feel elated at this point, and they are much more committed to each other and the team’s goal. Feeling energized by knowing they can handle the “tough stuff,” team members are now ready to get to work. Finding themselves more cohesive and cooperative, participants find it easy to establish their own ground rules (or norms) and define their operating procedures and goals. The team tends to make big decisions, while subteams or individuals handle the smaller decisions. Hopefully, at this point the team is more open and respectful toward each other, and members ask each other for both help and feedback. They may even begin to form friendships and share more personal information with each other. At this point, the leader should become more of a facilitator by stepping back and letting the team assume more responsibility for its goal. Since the team’s energy is running high, this is an ideal time to host a social or team-building event.


Galvanized by a sense of shared vision and a feeling of unity, the team is ready to go into high gear. Members are more interdependent, individuality and differences are respected, and team members feel themselves to be part of a greater entity. At the performing stage, participants are not only getting the work done, but they also pay greater attention to how they are doing it. They ask questions like, “Do our operating procedures best support productivity and quality assurance? Do we have suitable means for addressing differences that arise so we can preempt destructive conflicts? Are we relating to and communicating with each other in ways that enhance team dynamics and help us achieve our goals? How can I further develop as a person to become more effective?” By now, the team has matured, becoming more competent, autonomous, and insightful. Team leaders can finally move into coaching roles and help members grow in skill and leadership.


Just as teams form, so do they end. For example, many teams or teams formed in a business context are project oriented and therefore are temporary in nature. Alternatively, a working team may dissolve due to an organizational restructuring. Just as when we graduate from school or leave home for the first time, these endings can be bittersweet, with team members feeling a combination of victory, grief, and insecurity about what is coming next. For those who like routine and bond closely with fellow team members, this transition can be particularly challenging. Team leaders and members alike should be sensitive to handling these endings respectfully and compassionately. An ideal way to close a team is to set aside time to debrief (“How did it all go? What did we learn?”), acknowledge each other, and celebrate a job well done.

The Punctuated-Equilibrium Model

As you may have noted, the five-stage model we have just reviewed is a linear process. According to the model, a team progresses to the performing stage, at which point it finds itself in an ongoing, smooth-sailing situation until the team dissolves. In reality, subsequent researchers, most notably Joy H. Karriker, have found that the life of a team is much more dynamic and cyclical in nature (Karriker, 2005). For example, a team may operate in the performing stage for several months. Then, because of a disruption, such as a competing emerging technology that changes the rules of the game or the introduction of a new CEO, the team may move back into the storming phase before returning to performing. Ideally, any regression in the linear team progression will ultimately result in a higher level of functioning. Proponents of this cyclical model draw from behavioral scientist Connie Gersick’s study of punctuated equilibrium (Gersick, 1991).

The concept of punctuated equilibrium was first proposed in 1972 by paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, who both believed that evolution occurred in rapid, radical spurts rather than gradually over time. Identifying numerous examples of this pattern in social behavior, Gersick found that the concept applied to organizational change. She proposed that teams remain fairly static, maintaining a certain equilibrium for long periods of time. Change during these periods is incremental, largely due to the resistance to change that arises when systems take root and processes become institutionalized. In this model, revolutionary change occurs in brief, punctuated bursts, generally catalyzed by a crisis or problem that breaks through the systemic inertia and shakes up the deep organizational structures in place. At this point, the organization or team has the opportunity to learn and create new structures that are better aligned with current realities. Whether the team does this is not guaranteed. In sum, in Gersick’s model, teams can repeatedly cycle through the storming and performing stages, with revolutionary change taking place during short transitional windows. For organizations and teams who understand that disruption, conflict, and chaos are inevitable in the life of a social system, these disruptions represent opportunities for innovation and creativity.

The punctuated equilibrium model illustrated in a graph where “change” is Y-axis, “Time” is X-axis.The Punctuated Equilibrium ModelReprinted with permission from Organizational behavior. Section 9.2, by T. Bauer, 2010, New York, NY: Flat World Knowledge, Inc.


Cohesion can be thought of as a kind of social glue. It refers to the degree of camaraderie within the team. Cohesive teams are those in which members are attached to each other and act as one unit. Generally speaking, the more cohesive a team is, the more productive it will be and the more rewarding the experience will be for the team’s members (Beal, Cohen, Burke & McLendon, 2003; Evans & Dion, 1991). Members of cohesive teams tend to have the following characteristics: They have a collective identity; they experience a moral bond and a desire to remain part of the team; they share a sense of purpose, working together on a meaningful task or cause; and they establish a structured pattern of communication.

The fundamental factors affecting team cohesion include the following:

  • Similarity. The more similar team members are in terms of age, sex, education, skills, attitudes, values, and beliefs, the more likely the team will bond.
  • Stability. The longer a team stays together, the more cohesive it becomes.
  • Size. Smaller teams tend to have higher levels of cohesion.
  • Support. When team members receive coaching and are encouraged to support their fellow team members, team identity strengthens.
  • Satisfaction. Cohesion is correlated with how pleased team members are with each other’s performance, behavior, and conformity to team norms.

As you might imagine, there are many benefits in creating a cohesive team. Members are generally more personally satisfied and feel greater self-confidence and self-esteem when in a team where they feel they belong. For many, membership in such a team can be a buffer against stress, which can improve mental and physical well-being. Because members are invested in the team and its work, they are more likely to regularly attend and actively participate in the team, taking more responsibility for the team’s functioning. In addition, members can draw on the strength of the team to persevere through challenging situations that might otherwise be too hard to tackle alone.

Steps to Creating and Maintaining a Cohesive Team

There are several steps you can take as a manager to help build a cohesive team. For example, you can work to do the following:

  • Align the team with the greater organization. Establish common objectives in which members can get involved.
  • Let members have choices in setting their own goals. Include them in decision making at the organizational level.
  • Define clear roles. Demonstrate how each person’s contribution furthers the team goal—everyone is responsible for a special piece of the puzzle.
  • Situate team members in close proximity to each other. This builds familiarity.
  • Give frequent praise. Both individuals and teams benefit from praise. Also encourage them to praise each other. This builds individual self-confidence, reaffirms positive behavior, and creates an overall positive atmosphere.
  • Treat all members with dignity and respect. This demonstrates that there are no favorites and everyone is valued.
  • Celebrate differences. This highlights each individual’s contribution while also making diversity a norm.
  • Establish common rituals. Thursday morning coffee, monthly potlucks—these reaffirm team identity and create shared experiences.

Can a Team Have Too Much Cohesion?

Keep in mind that teams can have too much cohesion. Because members can come to value belonging over all else, an internal pressure to conform may arise, causing some members to modify their behavior to adhere to team norms. Members may become conflict avoidant, focusing more on trying to please each other so as not to be ostracized. In some cases, members might censor themselves to maintain the party line. As such, there is a superficial sense of harmony and less diversity of thought. Having less tolerance for deviants, who threaten the team’s static identity, cohesive teams will often excommunicate members who dare to disagree. Members attempting to make a change may even be criticized or undermined by other members, who perceive this as a threat to the status quo. The painful possibility of being marginalized can keep many members in line with the majority.

The more strongly members identify with the team, the easier it is to see outsiders as inferior, or enemies in extreme cases, which can lead to increased insularity. This form of prejudice can have a downward spiral effect. Not only is the team not getting corrective feedback from within its own confines, it is also closing itself off from input and a cross-fertilization of ideas from the outside. In such an environment, teams can easily adopt extreme ideas that will not be challenged. Denial increases as problems are ignored and failures are blamed on external factors. With limited, often biased, information and no internal or external opposition, teams like these can make disastrous decisions. Teamthink is a team pressure phenomenon that increases the risk of the team making flawed decisions by allowing reductions in mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment. Teamthink is most common in highly cohesive teams (Janis, 1972).

Cohesive teams can go awry in much milder ways. For example, team members can value their social interactions so much that they have fun together, but spend little time on accomplishing their assigned task. Or a team’s goal may begin to diverge from the larger organization’s goal and those trying to uphold the organization’s goal may be ostracized (e.g., teasing the class “brain” for doing well in school).

In addition, research shows that cohesion leads to acceptance of team norms (Goodman, Ravlin & Schminke,1987). Teams with high task commitment do well, but imagine a team where the norms are to work as little as possible? As you might imagine, these teams get little accomplished and can actually work together against the organization’s goals.

Table showing that teams with high cohesion and high task commitment have high performance. Low task commitment and low cohesion have low performance. High group cohesion and low task commitment have low performance. Low group cohesion and high task commitment performance ranges depending on number of factors. Teams with high cohesion and high task commitment tend to be the most effective.Reprinted with permission from from Organizational behavior. Section 9.2, by Carpenter, Bauer & Erdogan, 2010, New York, NY: Flat World Knowledge.

Collective Efficacy

Collective efficacy refers to a team’s perception of its ability to successfully perform well (Bandura, 1997). Collective efficacy is influenced by a number of factors, including watching others (“that team did it and we’re better than them”), verbal persuasion (“we can do this”), and how a person feels (“this is a good team”). Research shows that a team’s collective efficacy is related to its performance (Gully, Incalcaterra, Joshi, & Beaubien, 2002; Porter, 2005; Tasa, Taggar, & Seijts, 2007). In addition, this relationship is higher when task interdependence (the degree an individual’s task is linked to someone else’s work) is high rather than low.

Note. Adapted from “The Profession: Ethics and Opportunities,” by K. Collins, 2014, Exploring Business, Chapter 12, Section 5. Copyright 2014 by Flat World Knowledge, Inc.; “What Do Leaders Do? Behavioral Approaches to Leadership,” by M. Carpenter, T. Bauer, B. Erdogan, & J. Short, 2013, Principles of Management, Chapter 9, Section 2. Copyright 2013 by Flat World Knowledge, Inc.

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