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.