Thursday, October 11, 2018

Is creativity generated by partial disagreement in a team?

The four stages of a team

Every new team is bound to pass through four main stages before reaching what we could call a "productive maturity", namely Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.


Forming is the first stage of a team when people are selected and assigned. Team members start to know each other, usually in a low-engagement and low-trust environment. The stage is characterized by an artificially quiet mood, and people do not enter spontaneously into heated (and sometimes productive) debates. 


Storming is the second stage of a team. Now heated discussion starts to happen and people begin to get hurt by each others edges. 
It may appear a paradox but the storming phase is when the members of the team lay the foundation of trust. People are keen to confront each other openly just when they start to feel trusted and safe in the environment in which they work.
Storming is also a very delicate phase; if clumsily managed, the team may never be able to get to the next step, remaining stuck in an endless Forming purgatory.


Trust is established, safety validated, and people start to work together as a team. There is again some gray area to be explored, and some boundary have not been trespassed yet but results start rolling in with consistency.


The team is in its "productive maturity", and performances are consistently maintained. 

And then...What happens next?

In many cases, we can observe a kind of "performance plateau".
Throughput does not increase with time anymore, rather, it can decrease slowly but steadily.

Non-professional relationships strengthen, empathy increases, complicity gets in the way, and the team lacks the healthy level of antagonism which allows creativity to thrive.

Can too much harmony kill creativity and conscientiousness
It may seem so.

How can good performances be maintained in the long run?

The project manager shall keep alive the professional pride which allows excellency. It can be done in several ways

  • Turnover If possible, let new professionals enter the team. The suggested approach will force the team to step back a little from its evolution plateau. My advice is to carefully select the new members of the team and not to exceed the number of new entries, otherwise, the team may run the risk to step back into the Storming phase.
  • Training Push the members of the team to take training on project related topics. Moreover, encourage them to give presentations about their new competencies to other members of the team. The approach will stimulate good competition and, as a side effect, will benefit the project itself.
  • Manage Conflict Do not suffocate conflicts, let them flare in a controlled and safe environment. Responsible and effective conflict management is the key to a team's cohesion. Please refer to my previous posts (Link1, Link2) on the topic.
    Also, I suggest reading the great book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni.
  • Gamification Introduce gamification in some of the activities of the team, replicating in the work environment the very exact stimuli that keep people motivated in playing games.