The Team Cycle
Stage One: Formation
The main focus during the Formation stage is to create a team with clear structure, goals, direction, and roles, so that members begin to build trust. During the Formation stage, much of the team's energy is focused on defining the team and its responsibilities. Team members tend to be optimistic and interested at this stage.
An hour of planning will save three hours in execution, and this principle certainly applies to the team cycle. The more thorough and organized you are in the formation stage of team development, the more likely it is that the team will successfully transition through the stages of stabilization, actualization, and maturation, prior to termination.
Stage Two: Stabilization
In this stage, the team learns about each other and the missions or tasks that they have been assigned. They begin to settle into their roles on the team. Patterns of interaction and communication start to emerge as team members experience the process of working together.
This stage is critical to successful team outcomes. Some teams never experience stabilization. Working in those teams is an uneasy experience, because the team never achieves its footing. Role definitions are fuzzy, responsibilities are fluid, and team members never quite feel comfortable with one another.
Stage Three: Integration
Team members feel an increasing acceptance of others on the team, recognizing that the variety of opinions and experiences makes the team stronger and its product richer. Members start to feel part of a team and can take satisfaction from the increased group cohesion. In this stage, the team focuses on its goals, breaking larger goals down into smaller, achievable steps. The team may need to develop both task-related skills and group process and conflict management skills to smoothly transition into the next stage.
Stage Four: Actualization
During the Actualization stage of team development, team members experience an increased sense of comfort in expressing their ideas and feelings. They develop an acceptance of others on the team. They learn to value the variety of experience and knowledge in teammates. During the Actualization stage, team members start making a conscious effort to set aside differences and achieve group harmony. Communication is emphasized and becomes more efficient. Team members take themselves less seriously and a team sense of humor emerges. Typically, the team becomes more productive in this stage.
Stage Five: Maturation
In the Maturation stage of team development, members feel satisfaction in the team's progress. They share insights and are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. Members feel comfortable with the team's patterns and processes and feel confident in their individual abilities and those of their teammates. Team members become more accepting of each other and of value differences. In the Maturation stage, the team makes significant progress toward its goals. The commitment and competence of team members is high. Team members continue to deepen their knowledge and skills and work to develop the team. Accomplishments in team process or progress are measured and celebrated.
Stage Six: Termination
Some teams, such as project-specific teams or cross-functional teams, come to an end when their work is completed or when the organization's needs change. It is important for any team to pay attention to the ending or termination process. It is likely that, at any given moment, individuals on the team will be experiencing different emotions about the team's termination.
During the Termination stage, some team members may become less focused on the team's tasks and their productivity may drop. Other team members may find that focusing on the tasks at hand is an effective response to their changing team involvement. Their task productivity may actually increase.