Group Stages of Development

How the design of Lincoln Center can help you to develop a high-performance team.

The Opera House is a new documentary on the Metropolitan Opera of NY City moving from their home at 39th & Broadway to a what became their (now current) home at Lincoln Center. It features an interesting mix of history, music, design, and the complex struggle of making a large-scale building project a reality.

At the center of the Lincoln Center project was architect Wallace Harrison who contributed designs to the project as well as oversaw the work of other architects. The film, it is very clear that the design process was … contentious. Different factions all had different ideas of what Lincoln Center should be. Even among the architects there was bickering. The new Opera House took 43 designs before the final agreement, and nobody got everything they wanted.

One of the reasons Lincoln Center was such a contentious design project was because several talented architects were working together for the first time. Team projects naturally bring a variety of different ideas & approaches to the table, and with that comes conflict.

In the mid 1960s, around the same time as the Lincoln Center project, psychologist Bruce Tuckman proposed his stages of group development

The four stages of group development are:

1. Forming

2. Storming

3. Norming

4. Performing

Forming is when a team is initially brought together. Team members are becoming acquainted with the project work as well as each other and generally remain polite and avoid conflict.

Storming is (to borrow a phrase from MTV’s Real World) when people “… stop being polite and start getting real.” Team members challenge one another’s ideas and conflicts ensue.

Norming is when tempers cool and people look past the different personality types & ideas and become more interested in solving problems and doing the work. The team may be slow to restart having just exited the contentious Storming stage but will gradually pick up speed.

Performing is the final stage when the group is really working cohesively and executing at a higher degree of skill & coordination then seen in any of the other stages.

Some teams skip the Storming stage - some never leave it. The team of architects on the Lincoln Center project may never have reached the Performing stage. No team is guaranteed to make it to the Performing stage. Similarly, new project work or personnel changes may set a team back at any time.

We all work with other people on projects. Conflict is a difficult but normal component of a group dynamic. Knowing the stages of how a group comes together doesn’t mean you will be able to avoid conflict. In order to achieve a goal, you need to know that you must work through the conflict. Try to resolve conflicts as quickly as possible. Knowing that productivity is on the other side of Storming should motivate you to get up and start running as soon as possible. Only after overcoming the storm can you be a part of a productive & high-performing team.

In his blog, Michael Anthony explains how the design of Lincoln Center can help you to develop a high-performance team!


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