the essential part of business today is working in teams. teams that work on clients, or teams brought together to reform business tactics and bring about change in direction, change in standards, or changes inprocedures. that’s why it’s so important to understand how teams work, and appreciate them for what they are and what they do.

there are four moments in the life of a team that ultimately determine its success. those stages are forming, storming, norming, and performing. here, i’ll define for you the stages and show you why the stage that you probably feel is most important is actually not.

the first stage, as mentioned is…

forming: which is the point where someone makes the decision that a team is necessary and the people on that team are brought together to introduce themselves as well as get to know the others. it is said familiarity often leads to contempt, or…

storming: the stage of the team life cycle where the inter-personal relationships are challenged. bringing people from different facets of a company, of a department, of life will all lead to conflicts among the team members. it’s only after this storming phase where persons jockey for position, or roles, within the team that you then move on to…

norming: when all the personal conflicts and role decisions are made, accepted, and the team really finally forms as a single unit working towards a common goal. they work towards that goal within the final stage in group and team development which is…

performing: when the actual work is done. when the team uses its strengths, minimizes its weaknesses, and eitherachievesits goals, surpasses them, or—as happens from time to time—fails to meet them.

the most important of these stages is the storming phase, and i feel that way because it’s really the stage where the team itself has full responsibility for what happens, and what happens in this phase fully determines the outcome of the norming and performing stages. in my academic career and recently my professional career i have been part of many teams. in those teams when evaluating our performance after our work was done, issues we had and areas for improvement often times could be drawn back to this storming phase. but why?

i’ve found that there are 3 basic classes of workers, each with their own dynamic. those classes are:

  1. the minimalist: those people who want to do the least in order to meet the goals of the team
  2. the seeker: those people who are always looking for new and better ways to meet the goals of the team
  3. t__he go-getter: those people who focus on reaching goals in hopes their performance will be a launching pad to something greater

when you bring these different kinds of people together, you almost alwaysguaranteethat there will be personal problems within the group. in addition to these classes, there are sub-classes such as leaders, followers, and—to borrow a term from pixar’s finding memo—delay fish. and it is within the storming stage of the group lifecyclethat that you discuss these personal problems, and hope that your team is professional enough to come out the other side better for it and start the norming phase.

i had a team where i assumed leadership because of the introduction i gave in the forming stage. as leader, i had my own expectations for communication, quality of work, and how that work should be done. while most of the team had no problems with my expectations, two members did. and it was a blessing in disguise that i called them out in front of the rest of the team because—while it was pretty unprofessional—it started the conflict that we needed in order to heal as a team. that confrontation started our storming phase and—after i had talked to both members individually to understand what their issues were—had the information that i needed in order to change my style of leadership and also to talk to the others in the group to calm fears and disdain about their two co-workers.

on the reverse side of the coin, i was also a part of teams where there were problems with people and those problems were never properly addressed. as a team, we skipped the storming phase (and therefore the norming phase) altogether and went right into performing. teams that function like this cannot hope to attain the level of performance that they arecapableof reaching. why? because conflict leads to resolution. if someone on the team doesn’t respect another, or trust another to do perform their role in the manner expected of them, the team will fail.

the storming phase is the most important because it brings about the norming stage, and it is within that norming stage where the group actually turns into a team. and when a team works well, boy can the results be nothing short of outstanding.