At the beginning there are contradictory feelings: Anticipation next to skepticism, creativity next to fundamental discussions. It is necessary to determine the common goals and tasks, roles and rules for communication. From the individual’s point of view there are high expectations but also uncertainty. This phase acts as a means of orientation.
After the common orientation “the group starts running”, interests and conflicts will not be long in coming. The project environment also challenges the team members: Attendances at exams, everyday burdens or love relationships. Under such a pressure disagreements quickly manifest themselves: One has to deal with goal conflicts and personal conflicts, find “an emotional response to material challenges” (Tuckman).
After conflicts have been decided and mitigated, usually relief ensues. The common comes to the fore, rules have been established and consequences from past conflicts have been drawn. Fractures have to be “patched“. Both the identification with the common cause and the readiness to engage in dialogue increase. The first successes of the project become apparent.
The intensity of work increases and the norming phase is followed by a very active phase of good arrangements and well-planned tasks. One tries to gain control of the process by means of project management. In terms of group dynamics, the insider view is dominant. The team has itself in its sights: We work together.
The end of the project activities offers the opportunity to take stock and to draw consequences: Adjourning or continuing. It goes without saying that this does not pass without emotion. If one takes continuing into consideration, this should happen upon other terms: With other team members, in a different environment, with other goals.
This evaluation phase does not only figure as the ending of a typical project. Even during the group process there are phases, which interrupt the outlined cycle. Be it because somebody leaves, rejects responsibility or demands new tasks/foci. The eventual (new) uncertainty is followed by an evaluation phase, which Tuckman describes as re-forming.
- B. W. Tuckman: Developmental sequence in small groups, Psychological Bulletin, 1965. 63, S. 384-399