The Fifth Stage of Team Development
I have spent the past three summers teaching leadership and outdoor skills at the National Advanced Youth Leadership Training Experience. The principal tool we used to teach team awareness was a model incorporating four stage of team development. However, during the final days International Development Design Summit (IDDS) I learned of an additional stage of team development about which I had not previously heard. It was strange to learn of another stage of team development which deviated from the model I taught and so closely adhered to for so long.
In the model I taught, teams ended at Performing. In the Performing stage, teams have realized the visions they set for themselves. Enthusiasm and skill are high. However, Scott Bellows of the United States International University – Nairobi shared with us a fifth stage of team development: Adjourning.
The additional phase immediately felt natural. As the session progressed, I realized how attached I had grown to my fellow team members. After an intense five weeks of learning how to work with their individual personalities, I had grown attached to their unique and valuable contributions. The last week contained some of our best memories as a team. After working hard to meet final deadlines, all of a sudden we were going to leave likely never to all be in the same place again.
We developed a product, experienced the design process, and learned a great deal about working in a developing country. As my team members and I discussed life events which awaited us back home, I saw struck by how unnatural those conversations seemed. For me it was strange to hear my team members speaking about their own lives, careers, personal projects, studies, and relationships. I felt the Adjorning phase was particularly because at IDDS there is so little separation of personal and work life. Participants eat, sleep, and work together. Although I desperately wanted to hold onto inside jokes and quirky work habits, my team ‘adjourned’ and headed our separate ways bonded by one powerful common experience.