Is Tuckman's Team Formation Model Still Valid, Useful or Outdated?
Like many people, I was introduced to the Tuckman's model
a long time ago, and through my years in consultancies, I formed and normed teams on projects. Projects is the business of consultancies. Tuckman felt like gospel, we never really questioned it.
Then it all went more Agile / Flow and valuing persisting teams. This debunked the idea of projects. Still Tuckman helped rationalising this choice. Once you have a performing team, you hang on to it by persisting it.
Then I qualified as a Systemic / Team Coach and learnt much more about Dynamics of Human Systems. One of the characteristics of human systems is to be in a permanent state of emergence. The nature of innovation is to work with that Emergence. This also debunks Tuckman's idea that teams are in a stable state of performance.
Adding Complexity and Cynefin to I brings much even more context into the mix. The change of context can throw the team off - for example the Cliff of Complacency.
Most importantly, working with complexity does not necessarily seeks stability of performance. In complexity, the storming can be useful to figure new possibilities and exploiting the emergent nature of diversity of a team.
In change, it is sometimes also needed to put a team off-balance so change can happen. We like to think that people change because it makes rational sense, but change is much more of an emotional journey (or inertia) than many would dare to admit. Breaking the inertia sometimes requires a useful storming so change can happen.
In conclusion, the linear view of Tuckman was (is) useful in a slower world where businesses are (were) mainly focusing on creating stability.
In modern leadership, which we could define as working with complex / changing situations, teams can be in any mix of the 4 stages and the leadership should work with the whole range all the time because it can help change and innovation. The concepts are still relevant, but in my opinion the linear view of the model feels like it is starting to be outdated.
⇨ What are your thoughts?