At WillowTree we hold “Norming” meetings at the beginning of every project to accelerate a team’s transition from a new team to a high performance team. When new teams form, they have a unique set of obstacles ahead of them before they can become an effective unit, such as:
Productivity and morale suffer when a team doesn’t address these challenges.
In the 1960’s Bruce Tuckman created a development model that defined the stages that a group goes through during their lifecycle known as “Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development”.
A new team forms. Team members are motivated, but uninformed. Discussion focuses on getting to know each other and understanding the project scope. Orientation and onboarding are a primary focus. Usually minimal conflict occurs during this stage. Some team members may jump in early and start tasks.
Work has begun. Team members still feel like individuals. Differences of opinion and conflicts come to surface here. Opinions (positive and negative) are formed here about the people, project and process. Clashes of personality can occur here. Patience, open dialogue and professionalism are needed during this phase. Productivity can suffer if teams “storm” too long and some teams never leave this stage.
Teams are stronger as a result of Storming. Individuals feel like a part of the team. Questions have answers and team members are aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Through resolving differences, communicating, decision making, and sharing a vision, team members begin taking on more responsibility and becoming more accountable to their fellow team members.
Team members are motivated to succeed and have all the knowledge to do so. Everyone understands the goal and how to get there. Decisions are made quickly and team members have a high level of trust and autonomy.
Since the “Storming” phase is potentially a contentious and unproductive time in a team’s life cycle, we hold our “Norming” meetings at the beginning of projects to expedite that transition from Forming to Norming. The quicker teams can move through the Storming phase, the more effective and productive they will be.
Goals of a successful Norming meeting:
Here’s a sample Agenda, and some questions to start your team’s conversation.
Duration: ±2 hours
Facilitator: Project Manager or Scrum Master
Attendees: Everyone on the team
1. Welcome & ground rules
2. Ice Breakers
3. Project Goals
4. Project Values
6. Process & Ceremonies
Note: As with most meetings, it’s great practice to have a “Parking Lot” to put discussion topics that are outside the scope of this meeting.
While the Project Manager or Scrum Master acts as the facilitator for this meeting, they are not the decider. This meeting is a conversation with the whole team, and decisions should be agreed on by the participants. When the team members play a part in defining the values and process, they have a bigger stake in the success of the team.
Document the conversation and all decisions that are made and post them somewhere after the meeting so they are easily accessible for reference. This documentation also acts as a great agenda item for your retrospectives during the project.
At WillowTree we’ve seen these meetings bolster our teams’ communication and accelerate our transition to high performance teams. Hopefully you will see the same benefits on your new teams after holding your own Norming meetings!