🧬 Team Evolution

Updated at 2019-11-05 13:49

Usually team member motivation starts high, then suddenly drops down and ramps up slowly. These steps can be discussed as three stages of team building:

  • Forming: starting to turn a group into a team.
  • Storming: conflicts come up and should be tackled openly.
  • Performing: totally self-organizing team, only a tiny minority of teams get here.


Support socializing between team members. Have a introduction round. Make everyone feel welcome. Try to get people loosen up, but do not force it.

Make team purpose crystal clear. State the agenda and the purpose of the team. If you ask if people understand what you are saying, most people will just nod even though they do not understand anything. People are not yet comfortable enough to state their opinion.

Establish ground rules for working together. How will communication be handled? Are after work parties ok? How should other team members be addressed? How are decision being made?

Negative feedback should be avoided first. Avoid giving negative feedback in front of others in this stage. Give positive feedback right away and in front of other people. Give negative feedback later, think about it and give it one-on-one. What conflicts happen inside the team, stay inside the team.

After a while, you may start giving constructive feedback. Constructive feedback is not about being nice, it is about being clear and honest. Be specific about what was good or bad. Why behavior was good or bad. How things could have be done better.

Always listen first, think second. When receiving feedback, do not defend yourself but listen, ask questions, take notes and thank for the feedback.


You notice that you arrive on second stage when people start to question the leader or other team members openly. They feel confident and safe enough to rebel.

When you first notice this, you should anonymously ask members if "GRPS" are clear. Goals, Roles, Procedures, Sociality. Ask to answer how clear each area is <25%, 50% or 100%. After results, openly discuss the unclear areas.

Goals: Do you understand the final goal of the team? Do you understand current primary task of the team? Do accept current primary task of the team? Do you understand how task priority conflicts are handled in team? Do you accept how task priority conflicts are handled in team?

Roles: Do you understand your team role? Do you accept your team role? Do you understand roles of other team members? Do you think current team roles support your team to reach the goal? Do you think other team members have the competence to fulfil their roles.

Procedures: Do you understand how to communicate with other team members? Do you accept team communication procedures? Do you understand how team related decision are made? Do you accept team decision making procedures? Do you understand how team can ask for more resources? Do you accept team resource distribution procedures? Do you think this work coordination is well balanced?

Sociality: Is there a healthy level of trust, openness and acceptance in the team? Do you feel that someone is discriminating you? Are your personal needs recognized and respected? Does the working environment allow open debate and sharing of concerns? Do you think you receive enough constructive feedback?

Most social conflicts come from personality differences. Social conflict between team members are usually disagreements, differences in interests or lack of communication. All team members must understand that people are different. Some like having close friendships, other like to keep their distance. Others want to try out new stuff all the time while other want to stick to the old ways.

People notice differences first. Weight, gender, skin color will get noticed but people will forget them. Helping people to know each other will reduce discrimination.

Do not yell "you are discriminating because I am a woman". They turn spotlight on the only feature they are already watching.

Handle social conflicts right when you notice them. They may escalate faster than you realize.

Person AAA looks you funny without saying anything. You start giving AAA evilness points in your mind. You start blaming AAA for unrelated things, possibly only in you mind. It escalates to an open conflict. Other team members take sides.

In reality, AAA just prefers to keep distance and had a lazy eye that day.

After storming stage, teams go to performing stage or relapse to forming stage.


Leader social role is less useful in performing stage. Team should be self-organizing and functional. Leader just monitors them so they do not relapse to stage 1 or 2 e.g. after a new member is added.

Overconfidence is performing team's worst enemy. Group is so good that they do not see themselves fail. May also be caused by missing information, but missing the information is usually caused by overconfidence.

Members of a good team tend to synchronize their thinking. Sometimes you need people to think differently, try assigning roles for meetings:

  1. Leadership: Keeps discussion on the topic and flowing. Makes sure each person keeps to their assigned meeting role.
  2. Proof: Decisions by data. Thinks what data we need and already have.
  3. Values: Decisions by value. Scales how much value each solution gives while considering the costs.
  4. Gut: Decision by intuition. Considers what has worked in the past or in a different context.
  5. Creativity: Looking for totally new alternatives. Should be throwing the craziest ideas, but not dominating the meeting.
  6. Pessimist: Points out things that probably won't play out as currently discussed.