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The one model every scrum master needs to know and love…

Tuckman’s model wonderfully articulates the journey of a team before they become fully cohesive and awesome as a group.

The beauty of it is in the simplicity but let me summarise:

Forming – a group of people come together to get shit done.

Storming – personality conflicts, difference of opinion and frustrations bubble up the surface

Norming – the team reaches some common agreements and starts to gel

Performing – the team is good at consistently getting shit done

More detailed breakdowns are available if you want to dig deeper, but I want to focus on how you as the scrum master could use this model.

Your first job is to identify where a team sits on this model so that you can adjust your behaviour accordingly (yes YOUR behaviour).

I enlisted the help of my buddy (and superstar agile coach) Arif Bobat to help articulate how to identify where your team is and what to do about it.

Forming How to identify:

  1. Existing people have been set a new challenge or, a new set of people of asked to look at an existing challenge, or a teams ways of working have changed (a move towards agility rather than traditional project mgmt for example)

  2. Lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities

  3. Team members working as individuals

What they need from you:

  1. Teach. They may need to learn what Scrum is, if so you’re there to educate them

  2. High amount of support required. Ideally all of your time should be spent working with and supporting this group

  3. Intervene and guide, the team are likely to get swayed by dominant team members and strong opinions – use your experience to facilitate constructive discussions

  4. Create a working agreement / team charter

  5. Leverage the retrospective to encourage team bonding. Make it fun. Make sure everyone has a voice

Storming How to identify:

  1. Frustrations and opinions are not vocalised in the right forum. Gossip prevails

  2. People are jockeying for position, and bickering may occur

  3. New joiners / leavers significantly disrupt team performance

What they need from you:

  1. Act a mirror to the team. Raise their level of self-awareness of the behaviours being shown. Champion transparency

  2. Empathise with the team members position

  3. Invite them to be co-create solutions and look at ways of working. Revisit existing working agreement / team charter – if there isn’t one, create it, to set the expected standards

  4. High amount of support required. Ideally all of your time should be spent working with and supporting this group

  5. Constantly hunt for opportunities for small incremental improvements

  6. Modelling the right behaviour and maintaining calm qualities are key here


How to identify:

  1. Greater resilience within the team

  2. Agreed standards and behaviours are continuously being met

  3. Less likely to slip back to old habits

  4. Personal bonds starting to emerge, and the team start to interact outside of the working environment (going for coffee, lunches or even the pub)

  5. Team members more willing to raise prickly issues with each other in a non-threatening way

What they need from you:

  1. A focus on empiricism – use data and evidence to encourage the team to continue to grow

  2. Allow the team to have a greater sense of ownership

  3. Spend more time coaching, than teaching

  4. Step back from ceremonies and observe the impact (if successful then less day to day support is required)


How to identify:

  1. Physical contact is present, with team members high-fiving and even hugging on a regular basis

  2. High degree of collective emotional intelligence

  3. Safe conflict happens on a regular basis

  4. Team is fully invested in their goals and know how best to achieve them

  5. New joiners / leavers have minimal impact on team performance

What they need from you:

  1. Maybe nothing…ask them what they need, and how you can help

  2. Continue to observe, maybe from a greater distance, to ensure this state is maintained

  3. Question and challenge the team to continue to grow and flourish

  4. Be a mentor and explore deeper 1-1 coaching opportunities

Other stuff to consider.

This process is not linear – teams are likely to jump around the stages in this model. The important thing is understanding where they are at any point in time and knowing how you can help.

Team cohesion and effectiveness is a journey not a destination… Good luck…

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