The Essential Guide to Doing Transition. The Essential Guide to Doing Transition. - Page 14

The Stages of Group Life

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman suggested there are 4 stages of group development: Forming; Storming; Norming; Performing. To his list we add a fifth, Mourning. They should help you make sense of what you see happening in your group, at whichever stage it may be.


At this stage everything feels wonderful. The air is rich with possibility, everyone is getting along great. We think our group is fantastic. We might look at other groups and wonder why they seem to struggle so much! But the reason it’s working like this is that we haven’t yet agreed our group culture, and are managing to avoid differences and disagreements. During this stage, it is important that

your group:

• Take time to really meet and listen to each other. Create a shared sense of purpose

• Get to know each other better. How is each person under stress, what do they care about, how good are they are sharing their thoughts and emotions?

• Agree structures that will help the group work well

• Create group agreements, particularly around decision-making.

• Recognise that rather than just leaping into doing stuff, giving attention to this stuff is just as, if not more, important.


In this stage, agreements are reached about how you’re going to work together, roles are defined, structures agreed upon, procedures for meetings. Relationships have deepened to a level very different from the Forming stage. In this stage, all group members move towards sharing the responsibility and commitment to work for the success of the group’s goals. Things that help this stage go well include:

• Honouring people who leave: this may not work for everyone. If people choose to step out,

find a suitable way to honour everything they have brought to

the group

• It’s happening: a sense that the group is coming together, is able to work well: it feels like being part of something exciting.


After a while you might find tensions arising, arguments happening, people who have taken on roles of responsibility being challenged. Things can feel contentious, uncomfortable and upsetting, especially to people who don’t like conflict. But this is a key stage, and if your group can get through it, it will be much stronger and more resilient as a result.

What’s happening is that you have reached a stage where there is enough trust in the group for people to feel able to challenge and disagree with each other. Groups often fail at this stage, but it is essential, it is your group working out how to operate. Several things can help get you through this stage:

• Good listening

• A neutral facilitator

• Repeating back: “what I

heard you say is…”

• Patience

• Shared purpose

During this stage, some people may leave, and that’s OK. This tends to be when the need for processes and structures is most keenly felt.