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Stages of Team Development

Understanding the stages of team development is essential for any manager trying to build an effective team. Recognising that teams need different things at different phases of their development is an important start, but how do you start up a team and get the team performing quickly, and what pitfalls do you need to avoid?

To better answer these questions we combine a team stages approach with our STAR team performance model. This article is the first in our Team Building Through the Stages series. It begins by outlining each team stage, providing you with a route map for developing a team that performs.


Stages of Team Development

The Team Stages Model


The Team Stages Model

The team stages model has four main phases:

  1. Creating a team
  2. Developing a team
  3. Performing and achieving results with a team
  4. Sustaining performance -high performing teams

There is a final stage which involves how to effectively disband a team at the end of its useful life. In addition there can be three problematic phases in team development:

  • Forcing a team – where there is too much emphasis on driving towards the results at the expense of the team
  • Exhausting teams – where individuals don’t operate as a team and pursue their own agendas
  • Teams that are “dorming” where there is too much emphasis on the “team” and not enough “work” being done

Team Development

The second of the stages of team development moves the team from the start-up phase to the developing phase. Here the emphasis moves towards building individuals into a team with complementary strengths. For teams to work, the strengths of individuals need to be combined so that together they can achieve more than if they were to do the activities as individuals. We develop these ideas in our article:

  • Team building concepts – how to develop a team

A potential difficulty with individuals in a team is highlighted in our article:

  • Poor teamwork – when teams become exhausting

Performing and Sustaining Results with a Team

The third and fourth stages of team development moves towards performance and sustaining it. Performance requires individual strengths to be used to the best advantage of the team and in ways so that collectively more is achieved than would be independently. A leaders role will be to stimulate individual strengths and team strengths.

To sustain performance and deliver high performance places an emphasis on synergy; finding the connections and combinations which together achieve significantly more. This emphasis increases as the team rises to new challenges and as individuals enhance the strengths they already have.

We propose approaches to encourage performance and to sustain performance in our articles:

  • Team building in the workplace – how to build a performing team
  • Characteristics of effective teamwork – high performing teams and sustaining performance

A particular issue as teams move from the developing stage toward performance is that they may get too comfortable and focus too much on the relationships in the team, and not enough on the results and performance required by the team. We discuss this in our article:

  • When teamwork at work Fails – When it’s too much “team” and not enough “work”.

A final team stage recognises that teams may be set up for a finite project and that when a specific task is completed the team may come to an end. How you begin and start a team is of course crucial, but the importance of ending well should not be forgotten. We discuss the improtance of ending well in our article: “Disbanding teams.”

Whilst all teams will have their differences, the stages of team development provide useful guidance for both team members and team leaders.

If you do have the time to read more on this topic, why not go to our teamwork articles. To read more of about our teamwork concept – the STAR team model- see our articles teamwork theories, teamwork defined and teamwork in the workplace. For a more general introduction to team a good place to start might be to think through why is teamwork important , or you may want to think about how you define teamwork or reminding yourself of the benefits of teamwork.


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