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Teamwork in Your Life and in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Posted by Michael Urick on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 @ 11:01 AM

A long time ago (1977 to be exact), in a galaxy not so far away … Tuckman and Jensen developed a famous model of team development that has become popularized in virtually every modern organizational behavior textbook. It’s so well known for a very good reason – it makes sense as every team goes through the model’s stages of forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6.jpegAll teams, regardless of purpose or type, go through these stages. For example, in my undergraduate organizational behavior class, I use the movie “The Avengers” (Whedon, 2012) to illustrate the five team stages. As I noted in a previous post, I often notice organizational behavior concepts in movies and other areas of popular culture. I am a huge Star Wars fan so I was very pleased to see organizational behavior concepts represented in the recent Star Wars film “Rogue One” (Edwards, 2016). Mild spoilers are below in my description of the development of the team portrayed in the film. 

  • Forming. In this stage, teams come together for the first time. In “Rogue One,” Jyn Erso is recruited by Cassian Andor and the droid K-2SO to join the Rebel Alliance and meets up with several others who also become involved with the group.
  • Storming. This stage is characterized by conflict, distrust and confusion regarding the purpose of the team. In “Rogue One,” Jyn distrusts Cassian’s motives for attempting to find her father. Members of the Rebel Alliance question the group’s purpose and individuals on the team do not fully consider themselves to be part of the group.
  • Norming. In this stage, teams begin to understand more about each other and their purpose and develop positive methods of working together.  In “Rogue One,” the group goes through several experiences together which build trust and provide them with knowledge of the skills of each of its members. K-2SO has access to unique knowledge, Chirrut and Baze are skilled protectors, Bodhi is an excellent pilot and Cassian and Jyn have solid leadership abilities.
  • Performing. This stage is characterized by the team fully functioning and making strides toward accomplishing its purpose. In “Rogue One,” the group learns about one another’s strengths and weaknesses, accepts their mission and successfully locates plans for the Death Star.
  • Adjourning. In this stage, teams break up and members go their separate ways. In “Rogue One” (without spoiling the ending too much), the team ceases to exist at the end of the movie.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you are likely to be able to identify these stages in teams in which you’ve been a part. Every single team goes through these stages whether it’s a team playing a sport, students working together on a class project or a small work group coordinating their efforts toward a project. But, of course, some teams are more effective than others. Below are some ways to make your team more effective as it progresses through these five stages:

  • 30857614653_6eeb12a1fd_z.jpgTeams should have clear goals and team members should have a say regarding what the goals are. Teams should also have access to resources so that they can actually accomplish their goals.
  • Teams should be comprised of people with unique and complementary skills that are needed to accomplish their goals. However, when selecting members for a team, individuals should also have complementary personalities. Additionally, members should be receptive to working with others which could require some training regarding how to more effectively be a contributor to a team.
  • Training to improve team member effectiveness should be comprised of solid communication techniques as well as more technical training to further develop skills needed to accomplish goals.
  • Teams should only be used if group-level (as opposed to individual) rewards can be provided. For example, compensation should occur if a team’s goals are accomplished rather than when a member reaches her or his own personal goal.

Hopefully these general tips will help to improve your experiences working on teams. So, what was the most effective team you’ve been on?  Have you seen the five team stages occur in your life?  Let me know your thoughts!  Write me below, email me at michael.urick@stvincent.edu, or find me on LinkedIn and Facebook.  Do or do not – there is no try!

Works Cited

Edwards, G. (2016). Rogue One: A Star Wars story. Lucasfilm Ltd.
Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited. Group & Organization Management, 2(4), 419-427.
Whedon, J. (2012).  The Avengers. Marvel Studios.

Topics: Star Wars, pop culture, Michael Urick, teamwork, teams, Rogue One

About the Authors

Michelle Gil-Montero is an associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Saint Vincent College. She runs the visiting writers series on campus, oversees the student literary magazine, and serves as guru to aspiring poets on campus. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2007, and she has been on the Saint Vincent faculty since that year. She is an active poet and literary translator from Spanish. She is spending part of the 2016-17 school year travelling to Argentina on a Howard Foundation fellowship and Fulbright grant. 

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January 2008. Dr. Smetanka has taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Geology as well as interdisciplinary seminars. He has published scientific research articles in physics and astrophysics journals, numerous conference proceedings and also works in science education reform and the interaction between science, technology and theology.

Jim Kellam is an associate professor of biology at Saint Vincent College and our resident ornithologist. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2003, and is taking this semester as a sabbatical. What does that mean? He'll explain in his blog posts.

Dr. Michael J. Urick is Graduate Director of the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program, and Associate Professor of Management and Operational Excellence at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. Dr. Urick teaches courses related to organizational behavior, human resources, culture, leadership, diversity, conflict, supply chain, operations and research methods. Professionally, Urick serves on the board of the Institute for Supply Management (Pittsburgh) and belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and APICS. For fun, Urick enjoys music and, since 1998, has led and performed with Neon Swing X-perience, a jazz band that has released multiple albums and toured portions of the US. He enjoys watching movies, is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and also likes to fence.

David Safin, C'00, has been a lecturer in the communication department since the Fall of 2003, and has served in a variety of administrative roles since the summer of 2004. Currently, he teaches multimedia in the communication department as an assistant professor. 

Dr. Michael Krom received his Doctorate in philosophy at Emory University in 2007 and is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Vincent. He has authored a book on religion and politics and continues to publish works in Catholic moral and political thought. Dr. Krom also directs the Faith and Reason summer program every summer. 

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