The Four Stages of Group Communication

In 1965, psychologist Bruce Tuckman wrote an article called "Developmental Sequence in Small Groups." The article described the four stages of development that all types of small groups of people experience in order to communicate, develop and operate together. Tuckman believed that all groups need to go through this process to be most effective.


The forming stage is based on the concept that human behavior is driven by the need to be accepted by others and avoid conflict. During this stage, serious topics are avoided. Instead, members of the group focus on team organization and deciding how the group will operate. Each member is forming impressions about the others and deciding how best to approach the situation. This stage is generally not very productive for the group.


During the storming phase, resistance and minor conflicts arise. Issues might be brought up by less patient group members. They usually relate to the roles of each team member or how the team should function as a whole. The problems are dealt with quickly and simply, or they might simply be avoided. The conflicts can persist under the surface, depending on the group dynamic. This is the stage during which the "rules" are generally formed and members become more clear on their duties and responsibilities.


Once the rules have been formed, the norming stage begins. Now that each group member understands their own responsibilities and those of the rest of the group, they will start to appreciate the other group members. They will be more open to listening to each other and understanding each member's experience and skills. They will be more supportive and start to feel as though they are part of the group. This stage can be difficult to achieve.


The performing group is one of increased flexibility and independence. Because the members know and appreciate each other, they can trust one another to handle their required tasks. They can work together well and be comfortable with each person working individually to achieve their goals. If responsibilities need to be revised, it is done more easily in this stage. The group has a high morale and energy during this stage. Although not all groups reach this stage, it is the stage at which a group can reach its maximum potential.