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  • Writer's picturerahulmd

An Argument For Persistent Teams

When any new team comes together there are 4 stages that they will go through:

  1. Form

  2. Storm

  3. Norm

  4. Perform

Form is more like the formal introductions and getting to know each other. Usually a happy stage. Everyone is on their best behavior trying to impress every one else!

Its impossible for people to be on best behavior all the time. At some point, they start revealing themselves, and that’s when Storming starts! Differences in opinions, disagreements, arguments. There is also some competition as people try to establish the hierarchies within the team. This is a phase that teams have to go through. There are teams that are never able to get over this stage - conflicting personalities, lack of respect, lack of trust.

It is important to accept that storming is a part of the journey. That said, the team lead should manage the phase by establishing ground rules of storming so that the team comes out of this phase stronger.

In the Norming phase, team members start to accept, respect and trust each other. They also establish ways of working factoring each individuals strengths and weaknesses.

The team goes through these phases, when they are working on the whatever it is that the team is supposed to be working on :-)

Once the norming is done the team start to really perform.

For product teams, this is really the target state, when the teams are performing at their best week in week out.

The teams can go back to any of the forming/ storming/ norming stages. This typically happens when there is:

  1. Change in work profile, which require the team to learn something new and rediscover their strengths/ weaknesses

  2. A change in team structure - team members leaving or new members joining

When you changing your team structures - you are essentially going back to the forming, storming, norming cycle before the team starts to perform again. Given that you want the teams to be performing at their peak, it does make sense to keep team structure persistent rather than change very often.

That is not to say that you should not change team structures, because there are times when you have to change. But do evaluate the value the change will bring vs the cost of going through the change!

Let me leave you with a personal anecdote I share with teams during the forming phase to demonstrate the beauty of persistent teams.

This happened about 10 years ago before the day of whatsapp and emojis in messages. I was traveling on work and in the US somewhere. While in the US, I was coordinating with my wife in Bangalore to book some flight ticket within india for a family trip. I suggested something and got a response. Reading the response I knew my wife was not very happy with my suggestion - It was a simple brief text message before the days of any emojis. Just from her choice of words I knew how she felt. So I didn’t pursue my suggestion.

Once I got back to India I asked her if she was pissed off with me when she sent that message and indeed she was.

How did I know that? Because we had been married for over 12 years and had been through the storm/ norm phases. When you are in the perform stage, you can really read each others mind. Does that mean we never go through storms any more? Of course not, any change in circumstance which brings out a new aspect of our personality can trigger a storm. But we have developed our own mechanisms to handle the storms.

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