Tuckman’s Group Development

Tuckman’s model a.k.a. Tuckman ladder is one of the most widely-used models to describe group development which consists of five development phases that teams may go through. PMBOK claims the importance of team building to project success shown below.

Teamwork is a critical factor for project success, and developing effective project teams is one of the primary responsibilities of the project manager.

PMBOK Guide, P337

With respect to the Agile way of working, team building is the only way to achieving self-organisation and delivering the highest possible value. Hence, the model provides a reliable way for project managers, ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches and other roles to help identify the current stage of teams, so as to adopt different approaches and techniques for team building more efficiently and effectively.

Tuckman’s Model in PMP and Scrum

The significant characteristics of the team presenting during each phase of Tuckman’s model have been categorised into PMP and Scrum respectively (collected from PMBOK Guide and “The Great ScrumMaster”). It should be noticed that the characteristics shown in the column of PMP would also be identified in Scrum teams in real practice, while the opposite would be not due to the circumstances under the specific framework (Scrum). Also, in each phase, the works ScrumMasters should focus on have been listed as well.

In 1977, the fifth phase was added: adjourning, that involves completing the task and breaking up the team (in some texts referred to as “mourning”).

In the IT area, most teams have improved during the entire project lifecycle, and the team environment and collaboration among team members would have reached higher levels. However, the project is a temporary endeavour, it is inevitable that staff would be released after the project is completed. PRINCE2 also mentioned the necessitate to reduce this loss. This is a quite interesting topic.

When a project has involved high levels of collaboration and teamwork, and the team is disbanded, it can result in a degree of ‘mourning‘ for the team members, so this should be anticipated and ideas suggested as to how reduce this.

PRINCE2 Agile Manual, P 194

Norming vs. Performing

As for the model, the most puzzled part for me is how to differentiate the phases of Norming and Performing. These are both the comfortable stages for teams, which show high performance and productivity. So let’s have a look of the relationship between team effectiveness and team performance during each phase.

In short, the team in the Norming phase is not bad, but not good enough. The team should still be encouraged to take ownership and responsibility and continue improving, so as to become self-organisation.

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