Stages of team development

A frequent comment from coaches on our team coaching workshops is that the two most commonly quoted models of team development don’t seem to work well in a coaching environment. There are several reasons for this. 

One is that the teams coaches are asked to work with are typically already well-established, rather than in the early stages of formation. It is a lot harder to break habits once they are established, than as they are emerging. Another is that, whatever stage of development a team is at, how it evolves is a complex and largely unpredictable dynamic of internal and external forces — yet the Tuckman and Drexler-Sibbet models assume a completely internal locus of control within a linear system.

The model below proposes a dynamic that applies to both new and established teams. It draws on the PERILL model of team functioning, on the empirical literature on teams and team coaching, and on the reported experience of team coaches. It is not yet empirically validated in its own right.

Stage 1: Foundation

  • Sponsorship/ Permission to operate
  • Resourcing:
  • Right people
  • Right equipment, finances etc

Stage 2: Formation

  • Shared purpose
  • Relationship building

Stage 3: Task focus

  • Shared processes
  • Shared knowledge
  • Distribution of authority, accountability and leadership

Stage 4: Collective learning and adaptation

  • Developing deeper processes, knowledge and relationships
  • Realigning with stakeholders
  • Managing successes and setbacks

Stage 5: Reformation

  • Rejoining the cycle at any point



All elements of the PERILL model are represented in this sequence. In real world situations, there is always some overlap between stages.

The Tuckman model is based on what typically happens in teams without intervention. It describes the gradual emergence of order out of chaos. Team coaching helps to cut through this chaos in new teams by providing structure to the team’s dialogue. In existing teams, coaching provides a “return to basics”, whenever a significant change occurs. For example, when:

  • A new member joins
  • A new leader arrives
  • Stakeholders expectations shift
  • There are fewer resources available
  • The technology changes

The notion of high performance is related to how well the team is able to adapt to changing circumstances. 

Copyright David Clutterbuck. Al rights reserved. 

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