Do managers practice what we preach?

Dr Bruce Tuckman published his team development model in 1965. He added a fifth stage, Adjourning, in the 1970s. His original work simply described the way he had observed groups evolve, whether they were conscious of it or not.  As a manager my job is to move teams along this continuum to the performing stage as quickly as possible. Sounds good, but easier said then done in practice. There is so much change in our environment. Groups are constantly forming and changing, and each time that happens, they can move to a different Tuckman Stage.  A group might be happily Norming or Performing, but a new member might force them back into Storming. If your team is not performing or making decent strides to get there, be concerned. Your future prospects are likely in jeopardy. I strongly recommend readers select  colleagues committed to your team’s success if you have the opportunity to choose who you work with.

In the past few years my ability to really drive change has been limited by the matrix nature of our organization in R&D. For example, I currently manage reports across six agile teams in a very ambiguous work environment. Team members are constantly being reassigned temporarily to mini-projects or to fix the crisis of the day. Achieving higher performance and productivity in this situation is extremely difficult. Fortunately, my colleagues on the R&D management team agree. There has been lots of good debate internally about how to organize our teams for the next project with senior leaders and employees. In a meeting with our QA team recently I highlighted the need for our team to “up our game” to ensure our future success. While most employees agreed, they also felt that managers needed to do likewise. Touche!  If we want our agile teams to become coherent, high performing teams that hold each other to the highest standards the management team needs to lead by example and be seen to become a high performing  and coherent team.

The logical follow on question is where is our management team in terms of Tuckman’s framework above in the process? (Please know I don’t claim to speak for the rest of the team.) Before I answer this, I will briefly explain the four stages of team development in a little more detail.  The following descriptions are based on an excellent post on Tuckman’s model.

Forming:

* Team comes together
* Members feel anxious
* Individual roles and responsibilities are unclear
* Highly depending on the manager/leader
* Equivalent Situational Leadership style: Directing

Storming:

* Task priorities debated
* Roles & responsibilities questioned
* Procedures to follow negotiated & adjusted
* Power struggles may arise
* Team members may challenge the leader
* Equivalent Situational Leadership style: Selling

Norming:

* The team starts to gel
* Roles and responsibilities are clear and accepted
* Decision making typically happens with group agreement
* Commitment, trust and unity increases
* Equivalent Situational Leadership style: Supporting

Performing:

* This stage is characterized by high levels of:
* Goal orientation and commitment to high performance
* Excellent interpersonal relations
* Team understand what,why & how tasks are executed
* High level of respect in the communication between team members
* Equivalent Situational Leadership style: Delegating

After an extended period of storming my perception is that R&D management are on in the process of transitioning from norming to performing. I would also say that this is far more obvious to senior leaders then employees at this time. Why do I think this?

  1. My perception is the team have a pretty good idea of our strengths and weakness and delegate accordingly.
  2. We seem united that changes are necessary to excel in an agile environment and aligned on strategy.
  3. The silos by function are coming down. Dev managers actually signed up for QA training without being asked! I couldn’t believe it. :) QA managers proactively seek input from Dev managers in our regression planning. Our future success depends on our ability to work effectively as a unit.
  4. Every team member is willing to assume new responsibilities and move outside of our comfort zones for the betterment of the team. (Managers must do this to be credible change agents with staff given the changes we propose.)
  5. We socialize more as a group and consistently meet as a team on a weekly basis. Communication is much improved, we have lots of candid conversations which has helped build trust.

Does our team have challenges? Of course! Do we agree on everything? No. We have many opportunities for improvement individually and as a team. It’s time to deliver and practice what we  preach. When will we know for sure we are at the performing stage? Our results will speak for themselves……….

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