This is the fourth post in an occasional series about the importance of technical communication in the workplace.
Daily teamwork is an essential part of technical workplace success. Strong technical communication and collaboration skills are necessary to be an active and successful member of a team working to achieve a common goal.
When thinking about the term teamwork, the collaborative effort of a team, many associate Tuckman’s stages (1965) of team development: forming, storming, norming, and performing. In 1977, Tuckman added a fifth stage: adjourning.
- Forming – This stage involves the meeting of all the team members, discussions of each member’s skills, and dividing up of responsibilities.
- Storming – This stage involves the sharing of ideas among the members. Team leaders must resolve any challenges/competition between members and ensure that the project is moving forward.
- Norming – This stage involves the complete understanding of a common goal and responsibilities among members. Major conflicts are resolved.
- Performing – This stage involves the team members working efficiently together with minimal issues. The project work should continue on schedule.
- Adjourning – This stage involves the team members reaching their project end and going their separate ways onto new projects.
Although Tuckman’s stages represent a standard team development flow, there is much more to think about as a member of that team. How should I converse with others during a conflict in the Storming stage? How should I discuss my skills with other members in the Forming stage? How do I ensure that I do not fall behind the project schedule in the Performing stage?
Here are some tips that may help you in the different stages of team development:
- Be flexible in your work. In the Forming stage, you may be asked to complete a task that you may not particularly enjoy. Thus, in order to be a good team member, you must be flexible enough to say that you will complete the task to reach the team’s common goal.
- Complete your tasks in a timely manner. In the Performing stage, keep track of your own responsibilities and when the tasks are due. Communicate freely with the leader of the team throughout the stage to keep up-to-date on the team’s activities. If possible, finish your tasks early and offer help to other team members.
- Avoid conflicts. In the Storming stage, some conflict is certain but there are ways to avoid larger conflicts with other team members.
- Be aware of other member’s attitudes towards certain topics. Speak about those topics in smaller settings.
- Offer compromises when tensions start to rise. The compromises might seem more appealing than the associated conflicts.
- Attempt to resolve conflicts as soon as possible. The quicker they are resolved, the quicker the project can move forward.
- Communicate face-to-face. Sometimes words get lost in translation.
- Communicate often. Throughout the stages, make it a point to communicate with the team leader and other members of the team on a continual basis. This may include sending your status updates to the team leader, asking questions about your tasks, or simply checking in with other members.
All in all, it is important to be a team player. Every team member should be on the same side: the one that completes the project efficiently, successfully, and with minimal headaches.
- Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Development sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.
Samantha Zerger, business analytics consultant with the Financial Risk Group, is skilled in technical writing. Since graduating from the North Carolina State University’s Financial Mathematics Master’s program in 2017 and joining FRG, she has taken on leadership roles in developing project documentation as well as improving internal documentation processes.