Riding The Growth Train

Growth Train Front CoverThe last post (about the Groucho effect) offered six steps we have used to guide an informal group through the classic stages of team development.

In this post, we offer support for that contention with the progress of a team we at Team Powered Success worked with and saw them become a team of contenders versus a group of hopefuls! The title of the post is Riding the Growth Train.

* * *

The railroad metaphor is apt given that a new working group’s progress from the Forming stage to the Performing stage is a journey. It’s a journey of an informal group becoming a working group, then a loose knit team and eventually a performing team, whose performance can be documented. This post looks at one team’s real journey.

Note that the stages that a team proceeds through are not arbitrary. In fact, in the 1960’s a man named B. W. Tuckman identified the process of team development. Tuckman identified the four stages as The Forming Stage, The Storming Stage, The Norming Stage, and the Performing Stage.

We at Team Powered Success (TPS) use Tuckman’s four stages as a foundation, as do other team development models. But TPS differs from the others because TPS provides new teams with the tools they need to move through the four stages. First, let us introduce the team.

The Team

The team was comprised of six independent representatives of an online company marketing wellness products.  Using the industry vernacular, the team included one person who was the “sponsor” in the company and five of his “down line.” On average, they had been active within the company for six years with varying degrees of success in growing their businesses.

Despite ongoing support from their sponsor and from the company in the form of collateral materials, seminars and conference calls, the group –still a group at this stage — had no experience in and tools for setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.

There was no method for individual accountability and no set plan for documenting and discussing week-to-week activity.

 The Program

Team Powered Success was contracted to provide a six-hour program tailored to the needs of this group drawn from the basic TPS program.       The program included a one-hour conference call each week for six weeks. As the program progressed, it was decided that the group would take the Team Success Survey between the second and third conference call. The Survey is not offered early in the program because it can distract from the foundational work that is needed early on.

 About The TPS Program

It is important to note that there is no predetermined schedule or time line for moving through or remaining in each of Tuckman’s stages of team development. Some teams may devote more time to becoming acquainted in the Forming Stage. Others may Form quickly but become bogged down in the Storming Stage because cliques develop, members are not accountable, etc.

When the tools offered by TPS are used as recommended, a new team would soon find itself and its members setting their own course on pathways towards autonomy. This is not to discount other resources, but the team will be better able to select which resources will help it work towards and meet its specific goals.

Team Success Survey

The Team Success Survey is adapted from a model created by Don Clark and gives a snapshot of where the members see the team.  Participants complete the Survey online and anonymously. When the team has completed the Survey, a Summary Report is generated and shows in which stage the team perceives itself.

Of the 32 questions in the Team Success Survey, eight select questions apply to each stage. When these questions are totaled, the highest number (out of a possible 40) indicates in which stage the team perceives itself.

Between the second and third conference call, the team completed the Survey. Here is what the Summary Report showed.

Forming Stage: 28.0

Storming Stage: 23.6

Norming Stage: 24.9

Performing Stage: 26.3

The results were expected and consistent with a newly organized group. Then after the first two conference calls, a team “thing” started to occur.

A Sea Change

For the next three calls, the group started acting more like a team. They set realistic short-term goals, used the TPS Weekly Checklist, assumed roles, and responsibilities, and used consensus to help make team decisions. Three weeks later, the team re-took the Team Success Survey, and here are the results:

Forming Stage: 26.4

Storming Stage: 22.4

Norming Stage: 28.2

Performing Stage: 29.0

Understanding the Results

The lowest score possible for a stage is eight (Almost Never) while the highest score possible for a stage is 40 (Almost Always). The highest of the four scores indicates which stage a person perceives the team normally operates to be in. If a combined score is 32 or more, it indicates a clear sense that your team sees itself in that stage. The lowest of the four scores is an indicator of the stage a member believes the team is least likely to be in. If the lowest score is 16 or less, it is a strong indicator of that the team is not in this developmental stage.

If two of the scores are close (Forming: 28; Storming: 30), the team may be going through a transition phase. However, if the scores are high in both the Forming and Storming phases, then a team is likely to be in the Storming phase. If the scores are high in both the Norming and Performing phases, then a team is likely to be in the Performing stage.


Looking at the averages for both the Norming Stage and the Performing Stage (28.2 and 29.0)  indicates that the team sees itself performing most activities “occasionally” or “frequently,” keeping in mind the survey’s scoring system        (1 = Almost Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Occasionally; 4 = Frequently; 5 = Almost Always).  Below are the questions and the average responses related to the Performing Stage.

  1. We are all in this together, and we share responsibility for the team’s success or failure. 3.2
  2. We do not have fixed procedures; we make them up as the task or project progresses. 2.4
  3. We enjoy working together; we have a pleasant and productive time. 4.0
  4. The team leader/facilitator is democratic and collaborative. 4.4
  5. We fully accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 4.0
  6. We are able to work through group problems. 4.2
  7. There is a close attachment to the team. 3.0
  8. We get a lot of work done. 3.8

 What Happened

What happened was that the team had a breakthrough. First, it was a breakthrough in the sense that now every member’s goals were specific, measureable, and potentially income producing. The activity steps were designed to help reach those goals; they were not goals themselves. That was a significant shift.

Second, the goals were business goals. True, network marketing, like any business, does require interacting with people, but that is not the goal. The goal in any business is to have that interaction result in people buying your goods or services. Therefore, these goals should compel the team to think in terms of business tactics and strategies versus just social interaction.

Third, these goals provide a method for evaluating each member’s performance. For example, if a member has set a goal of $XXX.00 of sales within an eight week period, they can report to the team on their progress and ask for advice on how to meet that goal.

And Why it Happened

A sea change is a marked change, a transformation. If we look at the progress this team made in less time than the average working day, this team has undergone a sea change. They took the traditional approach to the conference call in network marketing and turned it around to best serve the needs of the team and its members. In less than eight hours of conference calls, the team:

  • Used the conference call format as an interactive medium;
  • Became committed to specific business-building goals;
  • Assumed specific roles and responsibilities; and
  • Realized the important differences between going through a process versus activities that can lead to meeting a goal

Frequently to Always

Given the close results for the Norming and the Performing stages, we concluded the team perceived it self between these two stages. However, the team does perceive itself as a team. True, most members choose “frequently.” That is a plus.

What remains is to maintain that momentum and use it to propel the team into the Performing stage and help them remain there. What follows are some of the recommendations presented to this team to help them reach and remain in that fourth stage. They are:

  • Keep the specific goals on the Weekly Checklist until they are met — or the team agrees they can be removed;
  • Use the Activity Steps to record progress towards the goals;
  • Use the Discussion Topics to record progress, suggestions, recommendations, etc. for reaching the goals; and
  • Use the Weekly Checklist as the agenda for conference calls

Roles & Responsibilities

Now that the team is functioning as a team and is within “striking distance” of the Performing stage, the roles and responsibilities within the team can be assigned for a longer period, perhaps for three-four weeks at a time. Those roles can include: Facilitator, Co-Facilitator, Recorder and Researcher.

Maintaining Team Spirit

In a brief period, this team moved through three stages of team development. In no small way, here are some of the actions that contributed to the progress:

  • Punctuality on conference calls;
  • Willingness to accept roles and responsibilities;
  • Accountability to the team;
  • Participation in open and candid discussions;
  • Communication with other members between conference calls; and
  • Ability to accept constructive input
  • There is no reason not to expect that if this team will maintain their current focus and refine the skills it has learned to develop their own teams.

Conclusion and Applications

In the time since this initial project took place (in 2008) a number of “evolutions” have occurred in how individuals, groups and teams form, interact and grow. Most notable has been the rise of social media wherein individuals can let the world know, and listen to and view anything and everything they have been up to — good, bad and indifferent.

LinkedIn and Facebook offer opportunities for individuals, groups and companies to have a social media presence and invite others to connect with them, to join, if you will, their virtual team. These connections my be informal in that no one is trying to start a new company using only a virtual team, but there are other applications that can sort of leverage the virtual aspect for a real life team.

Here is one thought. A blog can be a way to help position oneself as a Subject Matter Expert (SME). There is a variety of free platforms for hosting a blog and it can allow a person en entrée to social media with a purpose in mind.

The challenge is that a blog requires posts and posts require writing and that can a challenge to come up with new, factual content on a regular basis. One solution is to find three or four people who may be in complementary – not competitive – professions and form a blogging team. It can widen the resource pool and allow for editorial support. Think about it.

Finally, good luck with your team as you ride the growth train into performing!

— END —

Approximately 1,900 words.

Comments welcomed!


About Bob McCarthy

Originally from the Northeast, I now call Southwest Florida home. I have been a professional copywriter and editor since 1979, both freelance and in house. I have had article published in regional, national and international magazines. Plus, a video for which I wrote the script won an industry award as Best Training Video.
This entry was posted in Advantages of Teams, Team Development Strategies, Virtual Team and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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