How groups form

Some psychologists argue that groups undergo definable stages that can be crafted into a model to predict behavior. I use one such model regularly in my personal and professional life, that is, Tuckman’s stages of group development.

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman argued that groups go through four stages of development:

  • Forming: This is also referred to as the orientation stage because prospective members are orienting themselves to the group.
  • Storming: As groups develop, there is a tension that tends to arise naturally from conflicts of values or beliefs.
  • Norming: Conflict necessitates compromise, which cultivates a culture of shared understanding. This forms an environment of mutual understanding and expectation.
  • Performing: After norming a group can mature and arrive at a place where members are working very successfully toward common goals. It is said by scholars that most groups never get to this stage.

I add to this a fifth stage, Transforming. In accordance with Heraclitus of Ephesus’s quote that “The only thing that is constant is change,” following norming or performing there will likely be evolution that takes in the group as individuals change and context is shifted.