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Peak meeting efficiency: a how-to in 4 stages

By Zvonimir Rac

Working as an effective team during meetings takes time. Each team member has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it's important to leverage your team's strengths strategically. After getting to know each other, you'll start seeing each person’s individual skillset, which individual tendencies create conflict within the group, and the areas in which each team member excels. In order to fully understand your team, you first have to understand the process of working in a group and the pitfalls that come along with it.

Bruce Tuckman, an American psychologist, conducted research into the theory of group dynamics. His most formidable published theory, called “Tuckman’s stages of group development”, categorizes 4 stages and highlights a team’s growth while working together to find a solution. And considering meetings are a prime example of where teams come together to work - and we like to think we're a bit of an expert on the status of meetings ;) - we'd like to introduce you Tuckman’s 4 stages to help you reach maximum team effectiveness.

 

These 4-stages are:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing
Person climbing a meeting mountain looking for peak efficiency in his work

Each stage highlights the order in which teams grow together, face challenges, discover solutions, and deliver results. At Testfire Labs, we're always striving to work together as efficiently as possible, so we've committed these stages to memory. Let’s break each step down individually.

 

Forming

In the forming stage, your team comes together for the first time to address the goals for a particular project. When people come together for the first time, there's a bit of uncertainty - perhaps a lack of clarity towards the end goal – so the onus of filling in the gaps with the missing pieces falls on the meetings leader or project manager. Everyone's initial desire is to get started on the right foot and to make a great first impression on the team, but because of the initial lack of clarity, team member behaviour can initially be a little sheepish or quiet.

Key takeaways from the storming stage:

  • Raise an issue or a question to achieve a common goal
  • Discuss objectives and desirable key results
  • Work towards delegating tasks and ensure your team is on the same page

 

Storming

Once the team has a better grasp of the project and objectives, they start to express opinions a little more freely in each subsequent meeting. The storming stage is when initial internal conflicts start to surface; people start to challenge ideas, throw counter-opinions, and feel more comfortable expressing whether they agree or disagree. Each team member now has their own agenda, everyone has different styles of working, and this is the time when personalities tend to clash. This stage could require several meetings before moving onto the norming stage and it could hinder the team’s motivation and morale; your meetings can feel like they go around in circles with the same redundant arguments. If your team feels hindered by bottlenecks, consider inviting an AI meeting assistant to your meetings to track the progress and assess where you can reduce internal friction. 

The storming stage is particularly important as it breaks the groupthink mentality and introduces critical thinking, which has the potential to highlight stronger solutions or spark a pivot in your team’s strategy to meet the desired goal. 

Key takeaways from the storming stage:

  • High personality clashes, bottlenecks, and lower team motivation are common
  • Embrace the potential for critical thinking and problem solving
  • Work towards conflict management within the team—if an argument is irrelevant, shelve it, if it's worth exploring, moderate the meeting in an organized fashion

 

Norming

If your team reaches the norming stage of group development, expect an increase in productivity. In this stage you'll see conflicts resolving, ideas turn into workable tactile strategies, and important decisions being agreed upon by the group. The norming stage is also generally a place where your team’s initial goal starts becoming reachable, ultimately increasing the team’s excitement and drive to work towards that end goal together. The team's awareness of each individual's abilities is heightened, and tasks are delegated according to each person’s strength. There's an increase in trust and camaraderie, more openness to constructive criticism, and greater internal communication during these meetings.

If your team is still experiencing blockages at this point, why not introduce daily stand-up meetings to address any issues individuals might be having? Issues solved with a healthy group dynamic could help remedy project bottlenecks.

Key takeaways from the norming stage:

  • Get ready for an increase in cooperation, interdependence, and trust
  • Everyone on the same page and working towards achieving a common goal
  • Ensure your team stays focused as they move closer to the final stretch by introducing daily stand-up meetings

 

Performing

Congratulations, you have reached the fourth stage of Tuckwell’s stages of group development! This stage is the epitome of a well-oiled machine, and that performing, results-driven machine is your team. Everyone supports one another, there is little-to-no internal friction, and there is very little intervention from leadership. Your team is independent, capable, and striving to reach for the end goal. Your meetings are focused and likely shorter in length. The goal is within reach and if there are any minor issues that arise, those blockages are resolved fairly quickly. The work feels seamless; no mental energy is being wasted with team drama and your everyone is focused on completing their tasks.

This final stage represents the ideal dynamic of any team, and when you reach it, you're capable of tacking any issue together. Well done!

Key takeaways from the performing stage:

  • Everyone is highly productive, autonomous, and seamlessly collaborative
  • Your team requires little guidance from leadership
  • Work towards maintaining this team dynamic for future projects; celebrate the team's successes, assess where your team can perform better, and continue growing your team (the work doesn't stop here)

 

No matter where you are in Tuckman's 4 stages, building an efficient team is a never-ending process. There will be days where you will perform your best, while other days may not go as smoothly. After a long project, give your team a round of high-fives, decompress with everyone outside of work, and be ready to roll up your sleeves to tackle more challenges and achieve more goals.

Looking to dive deeper into your meeting data? Sign up for Hendrix.ai for free and take your meetings to the next level.

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