Bruce Tuckman first offered a theory of group development in the mid 1960’s. Tuckman’s model has been a part of Woodbadge training for about a dozen years.
- Individuals want to be accepted by the others, avoid controversy or conflict.
- The group is busy with routines: who does what, when to meet, etc.
- Individuals gather information and impressions about each other about the groups goals and how to approach it.
- Ideas compete for attention
- Group members begin to define their goals and what leadership they will accept.
- Interactions are more open and confrontational.
- The group focuses on one general plan for their work.
- Individual ideas are incorporated or laid aside in a spirit of cooperation.
- The group is acting as a cohesive whole with a sense of ambition and shared responsibility.
While Tuckman’s stages are observed in nearly every instance where groups are assembled to accomplish a set of goals they are not always there. Maturity effects group development significantly. Scout-aged boys lack some of the more sophisticated social niceties of adults so their progression through these stages is often different.
They move through the forming stage in a few minutes to the ‘open and confrontational interaction’ of storming. They are not generally guarded and reluctant to participate, nor are they likely to be polite and self- effacing. They are almost wholly motivated by personal interests and often don’t appreciate or particularly care about the interests of others.
Group development with Scout-aged boys is mostly storming, storming and storming. Our first reaction to this is to jump in and adjust attitudes and motivations – but this is mostly a short-term solution.
The long term solution is creating a culture of empathy, shared responsibility and order. We can’t force these things on Scouts; we can’t legislate them into reality, we can’t train Scouts to be nice and cooperative.
Truth be told empathy, shared responsibility and order are actually already part of our Scouts personalities; they are just undeveloped and untapped. For all of this to work we must maintain the integrity of the challenges; we can’t interfere or impose ourselves on the situation; Scouts have be able to work these things out for themselves. We observe and ask questions often. We minimize giving directions.
A keen observer will ask questions of their Scouts that help them develop empathy:
“Do you remember what it was like to be a new Scout?”
“What can you do to make this a better experience than you had?”
“If I was to yell at you like you just yelled at that Scout how do you suppose you’d react?”
We can coach them to share responsibility and build their Patrol:
“Tell me what job each of the Scouts in your patrol has for this camping trip.”
We can mentor them through he process of earning respect and loyalty form their fellow Scouts:
“What inspires you to be loyal and cooperative?”
“Do you think those same things will inspire your Scouts to be loyal and cooperative?”
“How can you best earn their respect?”
Maintaining an atmosphere and culture that encourages Scouts to move through the stages of group development in their Patrols is a constant challenge. We build it one question at a time.
Tom Linton says
You have desimplified the “official” B.S.A. version of stages of team development and, in the process, gotten closer to Tuckman’s ideas than that “official”, simplified version. Thank you. Uplifting to see ideas and concepts kicked around and compared to reality.
Frank Maynard says
We experienced the four-quadrant team development model in our patrol during the first weekend of Wood Badge, and were able to understand it in person as it was being explained to us. In fact, the curriculum almost encourages it – the first day can be bewildering, even for the prepared, but by the evening campfire things start to gel, and when patrol unity becomes stronger, so does the team performance. The Saturday afternoon activity and Saturday night game really pushed us to that fourth quadrant, and it became even more important when the course continued into the second weekend.
While I agree that most Scout patrols rarely get to the “performing” stage, I’d say rather than “storming, storming, storming,” most of the time it vacillates between storming and norming, going back to forming around each election time as the youth leadership reorganizes. Tuckman’s model is also taught at NYLT, and is one of the many reasons that boys who experience that course come out better leaders, not only for their time in Scouting, but long beyond.
The same is true of the committee and adults. While we mostly live in the “performing” quadrant, that’s not to say there isn’t a significant amount of storming too! Good leaders will recognize these phases and do what they can to steer the group around the circle.
Clark, would you like to come to Wood Badge in April 2012?
Clarke Green says
Thank for the invitation Chad; it’s very kind of you. I am already committed to a week at summer camp and a trip to Canada with our Scouts next year (plus the usual weekend trips). That’s as much time and expense I can afford for 2012.
Allan Green says
Thanks for the explanation, Clark. I took Wood badge in 2001, the last course under the old syllabus (Wood Badge for the 20th century). I have heard about this theory, but did not know where it came from.
It would be interesting if the BSA would get this guy to do the study with scout patrols, just to see if his theory holds true. I personally observed, and had to step into the middle of, a patrol situation where the norming stage did not grow from the storming stage. These young guys definitely needed more than just an observer to the process. They needed a referee, pads, and first aid kit when it was all over.
Clarke Green says
I’ve never taken woodbadge so I can’t comment on it authoritatively.
While I admire Tuckman’s work (he did get it right for the most part) it doesn’t hold true all the time for Scout aged boys. There’s an assumption of maturity and personal development that simply isn’t present in most of our Scouts until they are 16-17 years old. That’s not to say that every patrol predictably devolves into ‘The Lord of the Flies’ but it does happen. I think a lot of leaders get a bit frustrated when the Scouts don’t follow Tuckman’s stages.
Look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ;critics see Maslow’s model as too individualistic for broad application but I think it works pretty well for Scouts. Scouts are pretty focused on their physiological needs (where will I sleep, what will I eat, how can I get cool, warm, etc.) and no so much on the higher levels of self-actualization. In our society adults are charged with meeting the physiological needs of children; Scouting makes boys responsible for fulfilling these needs themselves for the first time in their lives – it’s a pretty big deal. One thing that holds a lot of us back is it’s uncomfortable for us stop providing for Scouts and let them figure out how to do it for themselves.
Caleb W. says
What happened to performing?
Clarke Green says
Tuckman says that it is possible for some teams to achieve what he calls performing. There’s also re-norming, adjourning and transforming… and another theory combines the form-storm-norm stages as one level of group dynamics called the transforming phase.
Thing is that all of these development models were developed observing adults in mostly professional, management and military contexts. I think we can observe the phases in Scout-aged boys but not in the same way that we do in adults. Can Scouts reach the performing stage? Yes but I don’t know that it’s a useful construct with Scouts – their most developed groups look more like norming than performing
Tuckman also discusses the group progression in the context of the lifespan of a given group. Small groups in Scouting have shorter lifespans overall and shorter terms of engagement within those lifespans. I see the performing stage in Scouts usually in the last few days of a multi-day experience like summer camp or a high adventure trip. In patrols I see a lot of regression to storming because they are together for short periods of time (a couple of hours for a meeting or a weekend camping trip).
What makes the whole theory a little less applicable in Scouting is a heightened observer-expectancy effect (people change their behavior when they know they are being observed). This is a very strong effect with Scouts: our presence even as observers, (let alone any active involvement on our part) changes their behavior significantly so our observations and what is actually going on are two very different things.
The stages of small group development as it relates to Scouting is interesting, but has to be qualified by these things. I fear we sometimes miss a lot of what’s going on when we look at Scouting through that particular lens.
Caleb W. says
At NYLT, we saw all four phases in action. My patrol went from forming on day 1, to storming on day 2, norming on day 4, performing on day 5, and back to storming on day 6. Long story.