What team needs in its stages

There are some researches about team stages, the famous ones are Tuckman’s model and ShuHaRi. To be honest, both Tuckman’s and ShuHaRi models are generic and support for group development instead of cross-functional and self-organized team in Agile. But both of them are very well known and well explained to be borrowed to Agile. I usually use those models in common Agile article/training/coaching, and in this post as well.Tuckman defined team stages with Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing in his first publish. It’s a sequence, meaning each stage has it own obstacle that needs to be overcome for moving team to next stage (see Agile Y, chpt. 6).

While Tuckman is team model of performance, ShuHaRi is not. ShuHaRi is team model of learning and practicing Agile with Shu, Ha and Ri (following, branching, owning). But Agile is iterative and empirical approach for building team and process, learning and practicing seem to be ‘everything’ that directly affect to team performance.

Working in Agile team as an Agile coach, I like the idea of combining Tuckman and ShuHaRi model: bringing the team through Tuckman’s model stages by supporting them to overcome their obstacles following ShuHaRi. That bases on understanding team’s stage and its needs in each stage as ShuHaRi.

Stage 1: The child (Forming, Storming) & Shu: Need a ‘manager’

Team should be in the chaotic stage, a group of people with an initial agreement (on vision, working method…) but lot of disagreement (on process). What team needs is the very clear direction, and who team needs is a leader with strong management skill to quickly bring team out of chaotic state. Like a child, team doesn’t need to understand why red light is for stop, just stop. Command and control is acceptable here by well explained reasons and high level of ‘command’: following code review, applying TDD…

Many people believe that Agile team shouldn’t have a leader – that I cannot agree. Any team has a leader itself in may way, with or without title or responsibilities in the job description. In Scrum, ScrumMaster is a leader of process. My experience, there are 2 reasons for Agile team never steps out of those stages: team has a manager who lacks of leadership spirit, and team has a leader who lacks of management skills. Team needs both, a ‘leader’ to set the direction, and a ‘manager’ who make sure team is doing right (Shu) on the way. If these are in one person (TeamLead or ScrumMaster…), team should expect the clear communication that they are SHUring, be patient to Ha and Ri in the next steps.

Stage 2: The teenager (Norming) & Ha: Need a ‘leader’

Team should be in organized stage, a half-team with their agreements that were built up from their experiences. What team needs is the clear objectives and a methodologies to reflect their learning. Like a teenager, team understands why red light is for stop, green to go and sometimes try the new things with yellow ones. Team needs a ‘leader’ who supports their decisions to try various things in their own way, thing by thing and step by step. Team has few knowledge and skills of managing, then still needs but weak ‘manager’ could be good here. Together, managing skills can be built up by leadership spirit.

Stage 3: The mature (Performing) & Ri: Need a ‘coach’

Team should be in out standing stage, a true team with self-organized and enough of skillset to perform well. What team needs is a methodology for keeping the continuous improvement, and who team needs is a coach. Like a mature, team understands why lights exist in places, when it should be red, when it should be green. The method and coach should be for both: team and team member. How team works well together is still an important knowledge and skills to be built up but team shouldn’t expect the big step as child and teenager stages. Keeping or stepping out of this stage needs team deep understanding about the methodology behind rather than just practices. Team and each member needs  a coach who tell them the missing knowledge and skills, manage the improvement process and give feedbacks.


You could see it as the model or pattern to be applied in team. But the hard and trick part is the leader/manager needs to recognize the correct stage of the team to shift his role or responsibilities in the right time. The metrics are useful out there.

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