In psychology, there is an excellent theory about the progression of the relationships of individuals immersed in a group and later team. It’s called “Stages of group development,” developed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965.
The model describes the five moments that usually occur when a group of people comes together for a purpose: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. Suppose you’ve ever participated in a group or team. In that case, you can probably see how these phases fit into your own experience and how they describe just about every group experience we’ve all been through.
- Forming: Or the beautiful moment when a group of people gets together, they don’t know each other, they don’t know why… They still don’t understand how they will manage to work together, but they are there, unconscious and incapable—but wanting to move on.
- Storming: Or the beautiful moment where egos, paradigms, biases, characters, and forms come to light. The truth of each of the people springs forth, wanting to impose their ideas, ways, agreements… Naturally, there will not be a consensus yet; therefore, we enter a moment of divergence that must be used to reach agreements.
Norming: Or the beautiful moment when we woke up from the storm to create joint agreements, converging being inclusive and diverse, allowing agreements that allow our group’s sustainability. The group is finally becoming a team.
- Performing: Or the beautiful moment when we trust each other so much, in their abilities and everyone… That we can delegate, create, increase more and better value and… In addition, we are constantly improving as a team. Everything is clear, from the purpose to the roles to Jaime’s favorite food… Or the topics that Claudia should not touch, or even, it is clear that last week we made an agreement for continuous improvement as a team between the relations and feedback, and we stand united in respecting it. And we are always attentive to what we need to improve.
- Adjourning: Or the beautiful moment where value orders us (Reform and reshape teams) and purpose continues to unite us. The moment to leave for other teams or train ourselves in different values… Always with the mind of adaptability and flexibility and without fear, we move on with others to continue increasing value—the moment where adaptive organizational design is our best companion.
But what does this have to do with agility?
First, most companies and Agile Coaches do not understand what I just put above. They believe that this progression is sequential. Nothing more fake. These are moments that the team has and… Do you know? All five can happen on the same day. Once in an interview, a “Professional Services Manager” asked me how long it took me, as an Agile Coach, to take a team to Perform. Answer that does not have an approximate time, considering that each team is alive, with people more alive than ever, in even more alive organizations trying to survive in their ecosystems (Funny situation too, because this manager later told me that if it was possible to bring to the teams at specific times to stages such as performing and that he had learned it in his MBA. He also told me that there was a book, which he did not remember the name of, which stated that whether the team had three members or 120, it was possible to take it to perform in 3 months. And well… When I asked him about the techniques or the ways to do that, he only managed to tell me that it was a secret from his MBA 😵💫).
And Second… There are no magic recipes that allow you to take a team to a specific stage. There are ways to accompany each moment by being empathetic and, from Agile Coaching, understanding that we are part of the team and of that value system that we attend.
I often use the analogy of a growing child to explain this concept. When a baby is born, that is the first level of maturity that an individual can reach. As the baby grows and develops, she gains new levels of maturity and independence.
If we apply this concept to agile teams, we will see that they must also go through maturity levels to be better over time.
When a team is formed, it is usually made up of individuals who have never worked together before. Members may have different personalities and ways of working. They meet each other for the first time and learn how each other functions and operates as a group. It is a stage similar to that of the baby, in which everything is new. When the team begins to collaborate, there are many things to learn and find out about all team members, just like when the baby learns to interact with the world around him.
As time passes and the baby grows, he becomes more independent and self-sufficient. He learns to feed and dress without help from his parents or caregivers. As the team grows and changes over time, they will learn to work together. Individual members may have different ways of working, but they will find their roles in the group. When a person is new to the group, learning and discovering about them are many things. Over time, people will become more self-sufficient and independent. They will learn to face life’s challenges without the help of other team members or managers. As teams grow, their members become more independent and self-reliant. They know to work together without the use of their leaders or managers.
Since no two people are alike, “following” a team can be challenging. No two teams are the same (Professional Services Manager, if you’re reading me… This is the answer to your question, there is no specific time to take a team to Perform).
One of the most common questions I get asked as an Agile Coach is: “What does an agile coach do?”
I think many people, even businesses, are looking for a silver bullet, that one thing that will make them more productive, more efficient, and more agile.
But there is no magic solution that works for everyone.
So my answer to what we always do is:
Accompany people, teams, and organizations to be and do agile in the best possible way, being empathetic with their momentum (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning). I help and support helpfully for that purpose and from my four hats (Coach, Mentor, Facilitator, and Trainer).
It is not about taking a team to Perform. I was never like this. It is about accompanying each moment and helping them improve everything, product, service, teams, people, interactions.
Be the Agile Coach aware of the system you follow, the Agile Coach who is within that system and helps others see value at all times (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning). Accompany the Momentum.