“Storming” as the term suggests is a period turmoil that begins shortly after groups are formed. According to Tuckman, “it is characterized by competition and conflict in the personal relations dimension and organization in the task functions dimension”. Basically, what Tuckman is stating is that as group members try to organize, conflict for a number of reasons is bound to occur and needs to occur in order for the group to move onto the next stage. He is suggesting that there is or will be conflict due to personal relations or lack of as well as conflict in trying to formulate a structure and get tasks completed.
In this discussion paper, my intention is to highlight why I think ‘Storming” is an integral part of group development in that it leads to healthier more productive working groups. As a group begins to feel more comfortable and less guarded with each other the personalities, beliefs, opinions and values of its members begin to emerge. This emergence gives members an opportunity to understand each other better by allowing commonalities and differences in areas such as opinions, skills and knowledge bases to be explored.
Furthermore, this period of conflict also assists in role develop, allows for procedures to start taking shape and helps set ground rules for the group. For example, in groups where a leader or facilitator has not been previously established, leaders begin to show their skills very easily as conflict takes place. In terms of procedures and ground rules, members will begin to recognize the need for formalities and structures in order for organization and task functions to take place.
As well in this stage, competitiveness gives members a chance to vie for position and to try and establish themselves in relation to other team members. This again helps set the stage for clarity in roles. Furthermore, these power struggles even though they are distracting will permit emotions and relationship issues to get out on the table which often lead to some effective problem solving and compromising. Again, leading to the overall health of the group and increased future productivity.
Another factor that creates a more cooperative and cohesive group due to this turmoil is the fact that although this may be a period of dissatisfaction it sets the stage for building trusting relationships and the understanding of the codependency of the group members. What I mean by this is that group members begin to realize that in order for the group to be successful they must draw upon the skills, knowledge and strengths of everyone and depend on these attributes in ensuring the groups ultimate achievements.
Moreover, during this time of uncertainty and instability a number of important questions will arise which will increase the desire for structural clarification and commitment of its members. Questions such as what are our objectives, why are we here, who is responsible for what, what are the ground rules, etc will begin to help the group refocus on its objectives and tasks rather than on the conflict that has been occurring. As well with the refocusing, communication will improve allowing members to actively listen and understand individual communication styles which may lead to a better appreciation and understanding of each other.
The final areas that I would like to discuss are the skills development that occurs during the “Storming” stage of group development. The managerial and interpersonal skills that can be learned through this period of conflict will not only help with the building of cohesiveness of the group but lead to each group member’s individual’s growth. As groups learn to self manage, they become more organized, they begin to set performance standards, they begin to make everyone accountable and the group becomes collectively responsible to its outcomes.
On an interpersonal level members learn to accept each other and communicate in a way that creates safety and comfortableness for other in the group as well as learning to recognize strengths and areas for growth in other members. This will also promote group development leading to more cooperation and higher productivity.
The final area of growth for group members due to conflict is in the area of shared learning through problem solving and collaboration. This period of conflict creates and environment of testing each other which gives the group a chance to collectively problem solve. The problem solving at this stage will lead to a better ability to collectively problem solve at other stages during the group process.
During problem solving hopefully collaboration will emerge, this is a time where members can be assertive and cooperative and concerns can be satisfied by digging out alternatives which can be agreed upon by the group. Again these are skills that will lead to a healthier, more productive group in the future.
Although conflict and turmoil in groups is very uncomfortable for most people, I think that it is a necessary evil in order for the group to grow and develop, leading to a spirit of cooperation, collaboration and group cohesion.
Tuckman, B., 1965, “ Developmental sequence of small groups,” Psychological Bulletin, Number63,p384-399. In Center for Service and Leadership. [Online] 05/12/2005. http://www.gmu.edu/student/csl/5stages.html