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.



  1. I have been a part of many groups that do not go through a storming phase. What does that mean?

  2. The storming phase may not be as full blown and obvious as I stated above. I think the strength of the phase is in proportion to the personalities and passion people feel for the issue being undertaken. I’ve also observed that the more hidden steps, sacred islands and guarded secrets, the more likely to have an obvious storming phase.

    If the facilitator has taken these aspects into account, they can guide the group through with many of the participants not even realizing they were going the phases. Or if you’re at all provocative in your personality like I am, you might not think there was a storming phase, but everyone else in the room did!