Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Norming Stage

You have successfully moved the team through the Forming and Storming  stages!  Getting through the Storming stage is critical but that doesn’t mean you’re done.  The first thing to remember is that just because you’ve made it through a stage, doesn’t mean you won’t slip back into one.  This is common, just like any relationship you will have good and bad times.
Understanding this will help you keep your focus and not ease up.  If you turn your back for a moment the team may slip back into Storming and you’re behind schedule.  Like the other phases you need to change your role again.  In the first stage you were and instructor or director if you will, then you became an instigator or maybe a hard coach is more appropriate.  Now you need to become a teacher.
The team is now in the Norming stage.  So what the heck does that mean?  In the Norming stage, the team is starting to gel.  They finally have their team dynamics worked out.  Everyone knows their part and place on the team, but not necessarily what to do.  This is where you come in.  The team is sort of in a state of limbo somewhere between unconscious incompetence and conscious incompetence.  Either way, they need your guidance and they are willing to be taught.  You need to teach and guide the team through their project and help them to get their sea legs.  Give them some guidance but let them figure it out.  If you take over and do it for them you will slip back into the Director mode.  When you go into Director mode (from the Forming stage) you focus their attention on you and not towards each other.  If this happens, you can actually throw them back into the Storming stage.
It’s hard to say exactly how long the Norming stage will last and the transition into the Performing stage is sometimes subtle.  We’ll look at the Performing stage next.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Storming Stage

In the last post, I introduced the Tuckman Model for team dynamics.  I then discussed the first stage known as the Forming stage.  In that stage, you need to take on the role of an instructor where the teams attention is focused on you.  .  The team is now getting comfortable with each other so you now want to force them into the Storming stage.  The Storming stage is basically a pissing contest.  This is where everyone is vying for their position in the group.  The alpha dogs want to spar, the class clown, the cynic and the know it all start to take their positions.

At this point, people start to let their guard down.   This is good, you want this and you have to have this to get people fully engaged and reach a successful outcome.  However, you want to do this in a controlled fashion and do it quickly so that you can move on to the next stage.  If you don’t plan for and manage this stage of the dynamic, you may lose control and never get anything accomplished.  I’ve seen many a kaizen event fail due to the team getting stuck in the Storming stage.  So how do you effectively force a fight, but in a nice way?

First, you need to change roles.  During the training, your role was that of an instructor.  Now you need to become the instigator and mediator.  Instigator is a little harsh, but I’m trying to highlight the shift in role.  Although depending on the team and the situation, I’ve certainly played the part (but I’ll save that for another post). 

Second, it’s time to shift the team’s attention from you to each other.  During the Forming stage, they got to size each other up by watching how they interacted with you.  Now it’s time to interact with each other.  The simplest way to force the interaction is through a simulation.  A simulation will get the team interacting, talking and working together.  You need to use a simulation that requires some discussion and problem solving.  Guide the simulation to keep it moving, but during the discussion and problem solving, LEAVE THE ROOM!  Take a break and walk away.  If you stay in the room, they will come to you for safety.  If you walk away, they will be forced to interact with each other and establish their roles and positions in the group. 

You’ve forced them into the Storming phase, congratulations!  The important thing is that they are storming in a safe, controlled environment.  The last thing you want, is for your team to be storming while they’re discussing the problem they’re supposed to be solving.  There will be enough tension when you get to that point.  Now that you have the team storming, you need to pull them out of it.  Ahhh, the sweet taste of success is a powerful force.  This is where you need to make sure your simulation is very robust.  No matter what they come up with, they need to be successful.  If they can come out the other end successful, you will have solidified the team and prepared them to get some real work done and move on to the next stage.

Next up, the Norming stage.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grrrr, team dynamics

About six years ago I ran two kaizen events in different plants just a couple weeks apart.  They were almost identical events in terms of scope, process, department and team make up.  About the only difference was that one team was all new to kaizen events and the other were all seasoned participants.  After the events were over, I was left scratching my head.  One event went really well and one didn’t.

I put my six sigma hat on and did a reverse DOE analysis to isolate the variables and figure out the problem. 


After some investigation, I realized that it was the team dynamic that was so different.  There are always difficult personalities and situations to deal with, but this was different.  There wasn’t anyone on the team that was particularly tough and both teams knew each other and generally got along.  This really threw me for a loop and I’m not exactly an expert in soft skills so I started to do some research.


I started to study team dynamics, group effects, crowd behavior, collective behavior and anything else I could come up with.  There’s a ton of interesting information and theories out there and this is a great topic to blow an entire night till 3am chasing different threads.  Okay, so it was probably more like a week of nights.  I found some good information but I was looking for a simple explanation, a simple model that would not only explain what I experienced, but also help me plan for and prevent it from happening again.


I finally found what I was looking for, the Tuckman’s Model of Team Development or the Tuckman Stages of Team Development.  Bruce Tuckman, a Psychologist first presented his theory back in 1965.  In a nutshell, he proposes that there are 5 stages that a team will and must go through.  The stages are Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. 


The teams will go through these stages in this order and they can drop back to earlier stages, normally storming at anytime and multiple times.  The challenge of leading a group is to get through the Forming and Storming stages as quickly as possible so that you can get to the Norming and Performing stages.


If you understand the stages, you can plan your agenda and approach around these and use them to your advantage to have more effective kaizen events and other engagements.


So let’s look at the stages and understand them better in terms of a kaizen event and agenda.  I’ll cover the first one now and the rest in subsequent posts.


Forming:  Think of this as the first day of middle school.  No one knows anyone and everything is new.  When a team first convenes, it’s all new and a little uncomfortable.  They’re not sure what’s okay to say or not, they don’t want to offend anyone, they don’t know what roles everyone’s going to play and how they fit it.  So typically, they will be reserved, quieter than usual and well behaved. 


As the facilitator, start with some training where you are leading the presentation.  This directs their attention and focus to you.  So instead of them versus the whole room (multiple channels), they only have to worry about relating to you, one person (single channel).  They will warm up quicker, you can build trust (which you might need later) and they can converse with you directly.  While each team member is dealing with you, it gives the other team members a chance to assess the situation.  People can start to figure out where they fit in and what role their going to play and what the group’s boundaries are.  By directing the attention towards you, you can get the team warmed up and “Formed” quickly.