The Four Stages of Team Development

By Sherry Lutz Herrington

I first learned The Four Stages of Team Development from my teenage son after he returned from Boy Scouts National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT).  At first, I listened to what he reported and thought, “Oh, that’s interesting.”  But then as I started thinking about how it applied to my business, I saw the pattern repeating over and over as we brought on new clients.

Take a look at your team, whether it’s internal or is a combination of internal and external (client) members, and see if this applies to your business, as well.

According to Wikipedia:  “The forming–storming–norming–performing model of group development was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, who said that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for a team to grow, face up to challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work, and deliver results.”

Looking at the model used in Scouting, it is explained as follows:

Stage I: FORMING: High Enthusiasm/Low Skills

When a team first comes together there is a buzz of enthusiasm.  The excitement of starting something new penetrates the team and everyone is raring to go.  However, as the unit is newly formed, the skill level tends to be low and the performance results are therefore limited.

Stage II:  STORMING:  Low Enthusiasm/Low Skills

Unfortunately, as the team realizes they don’t yet have the skills needed for success, their enthusiasm wanes.  This is the hardest stage to get through as the members get discouraged and often want to give up.  If you can keep the group focused on improving their skills, they will eventually move into Stage III.

Stage III:  NORMING:  Rising Enthusiasm/ Growing Skills

As their skill level improves, their enthusiasm begins to follow.  Once a competency of the tasks required sets in, then their confidence and belief in success rise and they begin to move toward Stage IV.

Stage IV:  PERFORMING:  High Enthusiasm/ High Skills

As the team continues to grow their skill level and their enthusiasm rises, things click into place, and they become a successful, capable team that sees positive results.  Once performing, a team can continue with success as long as their skill level stays high.  I have seen teams go through second rounds of Storming and Norming as new skills or challenges arise.  Strong teams can return to Performing once the competency and enthusiasm rise again.

When we bring on new clients, we form a new team taking on a new task together.  It is only logical that we should go through these stages together.  Yet time and again, I have to remind my team that these stages are inevitable and to pay extra attention when the clients hit the Storming phase.  We understand what’s happening and we need to help them get past this stage in order to complete the project with them and move on to Norming and Performing.

Hanging together during the tough parts is how you reach the calm waters of smooth sailing and accomplish your end goal.  It’s not always easy, but using The Four Stage of Group Development as a guide to understanding where the team stands will help you to guide the project and keep everyone committed until the results solidify everyone’s enthusiasm.


Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (, a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at

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