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Is the team building stages
model (FSNP) helpful?




The traditional team building stages model explains that teams have to go sequentially through the four following team building stages or phases (FSNP): Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing:
  • Forming: the stage where team members get to know each other and discover their goal and major tasks. As team members discover this new context and tasks, they tend to focus on their own personal interpretation.

  • Storming:  the stage where team members have to decide on what exact problem(s) the team will work, how they will handle conflicting views, how they will decide / implement / follow issues together... The worst, but very real, scenario is that the team remain stuck forever in this contentious and sometimes rough stage.

  • Norming: the stage where team members adjust collectively their behavior to each other and converge on their rules, methods, tools and even some "undiscussable". Mutual trust and performance grow significantly. The danger of this phase is stifling the positive creativity of team members with different views.

  • Performing:  the stage where the team members are handling conflict easily, are interdependent, are collectively focused on the goal and do produce great results.  
We are widely using since the 1970s this model of team building phases for many team related activities, including to justify:
  • answers to "why team building?" or "what is team building?"
  • the timing of many techniques
  • the sequencing of specific activities.
But it has never been statistically validated ! Recent studies attempting to check its validity came to the conclusion that the Storming stage is not part of the sequence. The stages are FNP (or FPN) and Storming can happen at any time during the life of a team.

So this model does not help us for team building, beyond that Forming comes before a combination of Norming and Performing. But that you knew before coming here !

The key unanswered questions are:
  1. What does provoke Storming?
  2. How can we minimize the Storming consequences?

My conclusion is that the root issue of Storming are defensive interactions in reaction to difficult problems.  And Storming disappears when interactions become constructive.


Return from team building stages to root team building issues

Return from team building stages to team building results





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