Forming a Team – Storming and Norming!

“Norman Schwarzkopf Jnr was a famous United States ‘highly decorated’ Army General, who became known by his nickname ‘Stormin’ Norman’. Norman preferred to lead from the front and his leadership style stressed being prepared, discipline and rigorous training.”

Stages of Team Building

Forming a team can be a contentious affair with new members not fitting in at least straightaway and each member bargaining for power and position. Most Management writers talk about Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, but I would add to that a final stage of Mourning, where the old group dies and a new group is born. Sometimes ‘mourning’ and grieving can take time and similarly a new group might have a difficult birth, working though the four stages of team development. In 1965 Bruce Tuckman, a psychologist originated the rhyming stages of forming, storming, norming and performing, and in 1977 he added ‘adjourning’ to his list, which I have renamed ‘mourning’. It rhymes better.

How Longs a Piece of String?

One reasonable question to ask is how long does each stage take and the honest answer is that it start when starts and finishes when it ends. It might start when a new member joins, like when a new shop opens or on freshers day at University. Sadly it might end when someone leaves or dies, my retirement day for instance.


“A colleague once told me that I would never be happy until I had chosen all my own team members. Now that’s not easy when you inherit team members who are still ‘mourning’ and think they know best and basically don’t like you”. The trickier member of the team is the one who thought he or she should get your job. It can go on for years!

The likelihood is that your ‘organisation’ or ‘Practice’ will be made up of different teams or groups. There might be a team of nurses and groups of receptionists. Studies differ on the optimal size of a team but it might vary from say 4 or 5 to 12. In Sport, teams tend to have at 10 or 11 members. To gain or regain control over a Team, like our current Prime Minister might like to do, a new leader might have a ‘cabinet reshuffle’ and change the membership of groups or teams under his or her domain. This is the stage where the mission is agreed, the aims, goals and objectives are set. There might be a timeline set and the ground rules are determined, along with the individual roles of members.


“Stormin’ Norman was said to be hard on his officers, but he was popular amongst his troops probably because he ‘pitched in’. He was highly critical of his officers if they were unprepared”. Arguably, rightly so!

Once formed, possibly an academic exercise over which the ‘new’ Manager has little say and no control, the storming begins, as people get to know each other or rather don’t want to get to know each other. Team members will challenge the new regime. They will fall out. Say then know best. Eventually, flaws in new relationships will reveal themselves.

‘I’ve been here for twenty years and you have only been here for five minutes’.

Then they make new friends and allies. Before that they will talk about each other behind each-others backs and then creep and crawl to the new boss, and to each other to save loosing face. They will grumble about folk not pulling their weight. Their efforts may be short of praise, but disagreements are normal fare!


“Settle down at the back. The ‘teacher’ takes control of the classroom”.

The mission, aims, goals and objectives of the team start to become clear and all of the ‘team’ members start singing from the same hymn sheet. Well more or less. There will be minor niggles but not enough to put everything off the rails. There is a process in time. There are the ‘crazies’ or innovators, who will sign up to the Team straightaway, followed by the early adopters who then join in. Then we have the early majority closely followed by the more reluctant late majority. Finally, we have the ‘laggards’ sometimes called the ‘leopards’, the ones that never change their spots. The guide-lines are now clear and the team is on the straight and narrow.


“It’s in the News Today, A Star is Born, You’re a Success”

At last we have lift off. The goals, aims and objectives of the team start to come to fruition. The Team is born and is motoring. It can probably function now either a minimum of supervision. The question is how long will it last. Probably until the first productive member of the team leaves. Stormin’ Norman was concerned about how the Press reported on the successes of his mission’s and against grain encouraged journalists to ‘bed in’ with the troops. Being open and honest about your Team and with your Team may lead to a longer shelf life for your Team.

‘Adjourning’ and Mourning

“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.” Norman Schwarzkopf

But alas, team members move on to newer climes and the Team is bereft unless they are glad that an unproductive member has flown the coup. The ‘retiring’ member might be replaced but in the meantime, the remaining team members unless well settled may find themselves going through the team building stages again both temporarily until a replacement arrives and then again as the permanent team members settles in. It’s a continuing cycle………….

Robert Campbell
December 2018