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Jan 12 / 2017

Team Harmony: 4 Steps to Optimal Dev Productivity (Brian Walsh, Group President, Development Services)


If you’ve been managing programmers for awhile, you might have noticed that there are certain common themes in how they mature technically and professionally as they move through their careers. Perhaps you’ve also noticed certain commonalities in how things progress when those developers form teams to work on your projects, products or programs.

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman published a paper in the Psychological Bulletin titled, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” In this piece, he coined the terms, “forming, storming, norming and performing;” with each term representing a stage of team development.Team_DevStages.gifIt may seem strange to represent with four discrete stages what feels like a continuum of team development. That said, I’ve found these stages to be incredibly useful in framing discussions on team dynamics and productivity, and in charting a course to get work done in the most effective and expedient way possible.

Let’s dive in and examine why.

Forming –Your team is getting together for the first time. The members are learning about each other, the work, and the expectations they will need to meet. The team members are discovering each other’s strengths and weaknesses, whom they can rely on for help, and whom they might butt heads with in the future. It is characterized by excitement, some nerves and a ramp-up of productivity from zero to ... something.
Storming – The initial excitement is wearing off, and the team members start coming up against technical, institutional and interpersonal obstacles in getting their work done. It may be characterized by a plateau (or even a decrease) in productivity, some conflicts and frustrations, and at times, shaky morale.
Norming – Your team members have learned how to overcome or circumvent obstacles, start solving technical challenges, and come to accommodation and understanding of any interpersonal conflicts that may have arisen. Productivity starts to rise again; the team is working out its kinks.
Performing – Your team is mature! Are they done learning or improving? Definitely not. But the members are performing well, and the whole is more than the sum of its parts (see my piece on 10x teams for the difference between a high-performing individual and a high-performing team).

Teams spend varying amounts of time in each of these stages. Teams where a majority of the members have worked together in the past may speed through the forming stage. Teams that happen to be filled with complementary personalities may not even realize they’re storming. This isn’t meant to function as a rigid framework with hard timelines, but instead to provide a vocabulary for how team dynamics may affect your business goals.

For instance, do you see a business opportunity where time-to-market is critical? Are you facing a new regulatory burden with a looming deadline? You may need to optimize your team with personnel who have the experience working together, using the necessary technologies to speed through the forming and storming stages quickly enough to achieve the steady, predictable productivity that will maximize your chances of success.

If you find that you aren’t able to compose such a team using existing, available personnel, Workstate Technology Team Rental may be an option for you to consider. Contact us to discuss the roles team dynamics, composition and availability may play in the success of your upcoming projects. We’ll walk through your scenario with you, and help to discover if Technology Team Rental is the right choice for your organization.