Sequence in Small Groups
As group facilitators
we are often concerned about the development of the groups with
which we work. Frequently we make reference to "the stages
of group development" and the stages most frequently cited
are forming, storming, norming and performing. These stages were
proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965 based on his examination of empirical
research studies. In this classic article, Developmental Sequence
in Small Groups, we find a rich description of these stages under
a variety of settings as well as their applicability to both group
structure and task activity.
a subsequent 1977 article, Stages of Small Group Development Revisited,
Tuckman and coauthor Mary Ann Jensen noted that subsequent empirical
studies suggested a termination stage which they named adjourning.
While Table 1 below summarizes the stages with a description of their
associated group structures and task activities, the original article
provides a much more complete understanding of their context, meaning,
and limitations. Although other articles in this special issue suggest
the limitations of "stage models" such as this, the memorability
and popularity of Tuckman's model make this article required reading
for every group facilitator.
1: Stages of Group Development
The pattern of interpersonal
relationships; the way members act
and relate to one another.
The content of interaction as related
to the task at hand.
orientation, testing and dependence
|Testing and dependence
resistance to group influence and task requirements
to task demands
openness to other group members
and cohesiveness develop; new standards evolve and new roles are adopted
of relevant interpretations; intimate, personal opinions are expressed
flexible and functional; structural issues have been resolved; structure
can support task performance
structure becomes the tool of task activities; group energy is channeled
into the task; solutions can emerge
separation and termination; sadness; feelings toward leader and group
professional job was as part of a small group of social psychologists
in a think tank setting studying small group behavior as the US Navy prepared
for a future of small crew vessels and stations. Nine of us at the Naval
Medical Research Institute were busy studying small groups from all perspectives
and under all conditions. I was fortunate to have an experienced and talented
boss by the name of Irwin Altman, who had been collecting every article
he could find on group development. He turned his collection over to me
and suggested that I look it over and see if I could make anything out
contained 50 articles, many of which were psychoanalytic studies of therapy
or Tgroups. The task of organizing and integrating them was challenging.
After separating out two realms of group functioning, namely, the interpersonal
or group structure realm and the task activity realm, I began to look
for a developmental sequence that would fit the findings of a majority
of the studies. I hit on four stages going from (1) orientation/testing/dependence,
to (2) conflict, to (3) group cohesion, to (4) functional role relatedness.
For these I coined the terms: forming, storming, norming, and performing
terms that would come to be used to describe developing groups for the
next 20 years and which probably account for the paper's popularity.
still remained the task of getting the paper published and that was no
mean feat. Lloyd Humphreys, then editor of the Psychological Bulletin,
turned it down, offering me constructive editorial criticism, but concluding
that the reviewed studies themselves were not of sufficient quality to
merit publication. I was persistent, though, and rewrote the manuscript
per his recommendations and sent it back to him, despite his initial outright
rejection. I pointed out that I was not trying to justify the collected
articles but to draw inferences from them. Humphreys did a complete about
face and accepted my argument and my manuscript and, in short order, it
appeared in print.
I ordered, thanks to the navy, 450 reprints and used them all to fill
requests within the first three or four years after the article appeared.
Requests came from all over the world and from a wide range of disciplines
and I have saved some of the more exotic ones. Almost yearly, I receive
a request from someone to use parts of the article or at least the terms
forming, storming, norming, and performing in print. Again, quotability
may be the key to success.
In 1977, I published, by invitation, an update of the model in a journal
called Group & Organization Studies in collaboration with Mary Ann
Jensen.' We reviewed 22 studies that had appeared since the original publication
of the model and which we located by means of the Social Sciences Citation
Index. These articles, one of which dubbed the stages °hickman's hypothesis,2
tended to support the existence of the four stages, but also suggested
a fifth stage for which a perfect rhyme could not be found. We called
Fifty articles dealing with stages of group development over time are
separated by group setting, as follows: therapy group studies, T group
studies, and natural and laboratory group studies. The stages identified
in these articles are separated into those descriptive of social or interpersonal
group activities and those descriptive of group task activities. Finally,
4 general stages of development are proposed, and the review consists
of fitting thestages identified in the literature to those proposed. In
the social realm, these stages in the developmental sequence are testing
dependence, conflict, cohesion, and functional roles. In the task realm,
they are orientation, emotionality, relevant opinion exchange, and the
emergence of solutions. There is a good fit between observed stages and
the proposed model. Further study of temporal change as a dependent variable
via the manipulation of specific independent variables is suggested.
The purpose of this article is to review the literature dealing with the
developmental sequence in small groups, to evaluate this literature as
a body, to extrapolate general concepts about group development and to
suggest fruitful areas for further research.
I Tuckman, B. W. & Jensen, M. A. Stages of small group development
revisited. Group Org. Studies 2:419 27, 1977.
2 Runkel, P. J., Lawrence M., Oldfield S., Rider M. & Clark C. Stages
of group development an empirical test of Tuckman's hypothesis. Journal
of Applied Behavioral Science. 7:180 93, 1971.
Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal Number 3, Spring 2001