How Teams Develop

Team_Spirit_1440x10802To be a team requires a group; contrary to a group. To be a group does not mean that group is considered a team. It’s important to distinguish that right away. To be a team requires a group of people to interact in order to achieve a combined goal (Carron and Hausenblas, 1998). The formation of a team is an evolutionary process where members of a group would have to work together, interact and find solutions to both internal and external factors. For example, in order to score a goal in Football, individuals may need to speak to each other, will have to pass the ball between them and also anticipate their moves to gain the upper hand to get past the opposing team’s defense. (Weinberg and Gould, 2015)

There are three theories of group development:

  • Linear Perspective
  • Cyclical (Life Cycle) Perspective
  • Pendular Perspective

Linear Perspective:

This theory is based on stages; the assumption is that groups progressively move through different stages. When critical issues arise in each stage and are successfully dealt with; the group moves on. (Tuckman, 2001) is one of the people who advanced this theory most, proposing that all groups go through four specific stages:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing

Although not all groups go through all four stages, varying the time in each stage differs from group to group depending on the level of coaching. A coach can have a huge impact on a group ability to progress promoting harmony using their different strategies.


At this stage, the members of a group will “scope each other out’ so to speak. Find out where they fit in the group, or maybe even at all; measuring strengths and weaknesses as they slowly figure out their role in the team.


As the name suggests, this second stage is where the frustrations are let out. Ironing out the kinks in the group status levels, the group’s relationship with the leader and the leaders’ relationship with the group. Conflicts of personalities, gameplay, attitude, and many other things related. The power struggle!


This is where things cool down, where hostility in the previous stage is replaced by solidarity and cooperation. Problems between a group, any matters of conflict are sorted out and a sense of unity is formed. Now, rather than playing for their self, personal accolades or selfish reasons; they play task effectiveness and economy of effort. The team becomes the most important factor and they work together towards common goals.


This final stage is where the individuals become a team, become one unit channeling their energies towards the success of the team, problem-solving, using processes learned and relationships to achieve tasks trying out new ideas. All organizational and fundamental structural problems are sorted out; interpersonal relationships stabilize with roles within the team being well defined. (Weinberg and Gould, 2015)

Cyclical (Life Cycle) Perspective:

This perspective revolves around the understanding of building a team like the cycle of life (Playing Lion King Music). Think of this as a pessimistic cycle as it’s development in based on the assumption of its own breakup. Whilst members of the group develop, they; in turn prepare for its separation.

This kind of cycle would be normally used in a physical activity like camp training has a clear start and end point, like seasonal football or preparation for a sporting like the Olympics. (Weinberg and Gould, 2015)

Pendular Model:

This process differs from earlier linear and cyclical models in that they are based on the underlying assumption that a group possesses the inbuilt fixed development that does not respond to the environment (Gersick, 1988). The pendular model has a big emphasis on the critical changes that occur in interpersonal relationships during the growth and development of groups. Unlike the linear and cyclical models, this theory places its assumption on groups not progressively moving through stages in a linear fashion the instant it forms, but nether-the-less; there are stages:

Stage 1 – Orientation:

Athletes within the group feel the same pressure, anxieties, and aspirations. The feeling of unity in heightened within the group.

Stage 2 – Differentiation:

The group separates itself into smaller groups either physically or psychologically. The main cause of conflict here would be team members competing for positions in the team. Typical in American Football where there are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd string QB’s (Quarter Backs) waiting in line to play.

Stage 3 – Resolution and Cohesion:

Despite differences and past conflicts, the team hustles together to create a unified front when preparing to face an opponent.

Stage 4 – Differentiation and Conflict:

This attacks the team unity when individuals are either rewarded or punished; this weakened state causes rifts within the group and sometimes offsetting individuals completely.

Stage 5 – Termination:

If the season is a success, the feeling of group cohesion would be right up there. In contrast, if the season finished badly the reverse happens brining group cohesion down. (Weinberg and Gould, 2015)

My Thoughts:

From studying the psychological factors which dictate the formation of teams and personal experiences in team situations, I think great teams are those who are able to see both winning and losing as the same thing with regards to team cohesion. For example: If an American Football team were to win a championship national game, the general feeling of cohesion may be high. Alternatively, if they lost, the feeling of cohesion may be low.
I think a team that can take a loss, as a team, are always going to be winners. It’s all well and good to point out people’s mistakes to make yourself feel better and shift blame, but those elitist views have no space for team cohesion. Instead, a group that are able to reinforce and rebuild upon mistakes made by either the group or individually, irrelevant of winning or losing; are a team. These teams usually become winning teams. A great example of this is the Indiana Hoosiers 1985-1986 season (Feinstein, 1987). A team is only as strong as their weakest link.


Carron, A. V. & Hausenblas, H. A. 1998. Group dynamics in sport, Morgantown,WV, Fitness Information Technology.

Feinstein, J. 1987. A season on the brink: A year with Booby Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers, New York, Simon & Schuster.

Gersick, C. J. G. 1988. TIME AND TRANSITION IN WORK TEAMS TOWARD A NEW MODEL OF GROUP DEVELOPMENT. Academy of Management Journal, 31, 9.

Tuckman, B. W. 2001. Developmental sequence in small groups. Group Facilitation, 66.

Weinberg, R. S. & Gould, D. 2015. Foundations of sport and exercise psychology, Leeds, Human Kinetics.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: