My Team Alignment Method is the approach I suggest all leaders and groups take to build an effective team.
However, before embarking on any kind of team development journey, it is important first to understand the 4-stage process that all work groups naturally move through en route to being a TEAM.
The Team Development was first developed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965 and it details the four stages that all teams move through. He called it Forming > Storming > Norming > Performing
Whilst this model has been around for many years, I have adapted it to suit the modern business world.
However, whilst my labelling and explanation of the stages is different to Tuckman’s, the essence of my amended model remains very true to his original work.
I call it: The TEAM Journey
STAGE 1 – STARTING
In this stage, the starting of the team takes place and the individual’s behaviour is driven by the simple desire to be accepted.
There is a lack of understanding of the team’s vision or purpose and there is high dependence on the leader/manager for direction and guidance.
This stage tends to be comfortable for the individuals as they behave and work relatively independently. The focus tends to be on goals and tasks and on who does what and when, in addition to gathering information about each other.
To the leader/ manager, the team may appear to be working well as tasks are completed. However, the reality is that often they are not completed as effectively or as efficiently as they could be and the avoidance of any conflict means that issues and feelings are not addressed. As a result mutual respect and trust is not established and so success it limited.
STAGE 2 – KICKING
In this stage, the kicking of the team occurs as whilst the vision and the purpose of the team becomes clearer, uncertainty about where the individuals fit into that builds.
Individuals begin to vie for position and to assert their preferences and ideas, and as differences are emphasised, tension arises and conflict can occur.
This stage is not avoidable. All teams go through this stage and for a team that has never worked together before, it is especially significant.
Due to the often contentious nature of this stage, it can feel uncomfortable, especially for those who are particularly averse to conflict, as individual’s air and explore their differences.
For the leader/manager this stage is a challenge as the individuals shift responsibility for tasks and outcomes and apportion blame for failings.
The KICKING stage is an essential stage as it creates the conditions to enable the individuals to push through their differences by both recognising and accepting them. It enables them to identify where they and each other member brings value to the team and to begin to establish mutual understanding and respect. It does however have the potential to be a destructive stage if there is a lack of tolerance and patience. Cliques may form at this stage and power struggles may occur.
However, with the freedom to share opinions and feelings openly and without judgement, the team are able to work together more comfortably. Some teams unfortunately never develop past this stage.
STAGE 3 – WORKING
In this stage, the working of the team begins as agreement replaces resistance and the individuals find commonality and ways in which they complement each other.
They begin to compromise their own agendas for the benefit of the team as a collective. Their desire for and their commitment to the team’s success is strong and they begin to depend more on each other than on the leader/manager and to work together, playing to their strengths and pulling on the strengths of their teammates.
This stage is a welcome stage for everyone after they’ve been in kicking and it is highly noticeable as the tension and conflict is replaced with mutual appreciation and respect and trust builds.
For the leader/manager, this stage is very welcome as the team appear to get what they are about and to be both willing and able to take on more responsibility. As a result, a deeper level of delegation is possible.
The WORKING stage is significant as everyone becomes clear not just on the role they play and the value they bring, but also on the value brought by every individual in the team. Everyone begins to feel appreciated and valued and this is reflected in the outcomes they achieve.
Some individuals may continue to operate independently on occasion and ideas, opinions and feelings may still not be fully shared openly in this stage for fear of recreating conflict.
STAGE 4 – DRIVING
In this stage, the driving of the team emerges as the individuals cease to operate independently and instead operate interdependently, depending on each other to perform their respective roles well.
The individuals in the team are knowledgeable and competent, highly motivated and dependent on each other which makes collective problem solving and decision making easy.
There is complete openness, high empathy and mutual respect and trust and as a result, the team proactively seek ways of getting the work done efficiently and effectively without the need for external leadership or management.
What is most evident in this stage is that differing ideas, opinions and feelings are encouraged within the team, with the intent of challenging the norm and continually finding new solutions and ways forward.
Equally, the skills and strengths, roles and responsibilities and the attitude and attributes of the individuals complement and support each other as well as the team’s vision, culture and goals.
For the leader/manager, delegating to this team is a joy! Everyone is clear about where they are heading as a team and fully appreciates the significance of their role in the context of the vision. They are confident in playing to their strengths to perform that role well and they thrive as a result of the increase in expectation and responsibility.
The DRIVING stage is the stage to aspire to as in this stage, the team dynamics become highly functional, the individuals within the team thoroughly enjoy the experience of working together and the vision becomes a personal aspiration for everyone.
As a result, they actively drive the business forward for no other reason than they want to and so they power forward with ease. Achieving the business vision becomes inevitable!
Team development is not linear process. Even the most DRIVING teams will experience challenges and may reverse to earlier stages in the cycle when changes occur.
The loss of a valued member, the addition of someone new, a change in leadership or direction and focus, or even the achievement of a significant goal can result in reversing.
Most typically, in the face of change, the team will reverse back to kicking as new agendas, ideas, perspectives and opinions challenge the existing dynamics of the team.
For the leader/manager, delegation can suffer in the face of a reversing team as the impact on the team results in mistakes or missed deadlines. However, a previously DRIVING team that has fully experienced what it is to work interdependently, already possesses the characteristics required to adapt to the changes, address the challenges and to progress through the process quickly and with relatively low discomfort or disruption.
A team in the working stage may struggle with this and a kicking team may never recover which is why aspiring to create a DRIVING team is so important.