I spend much of my professional life working in what you might call Team Development.  Businesses invite me to help their team to be more effective, which I do in various ways ranging from the reasonably predictable to what I would call “leading edge.”

One of the basic theories people like me talk about is Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development.  The model describes the predictable stages a team goes through, from the polite, reserved “Forming”stage when people are meeting each other for the first time, through the more contentious “Storming” and on up eventually to “Performing”, and maybe even “Transforming”.  It’s a well known model, and I use it to get teams to consider what stage they are at currently and how they can move to the next stage.

One of the concepts behind the model is that you shouldn’t miss out stages.  Because Storming can involve conflict and be uncomfortbale, teams sometimes (consciously or otherwise) try and miss it out.  This often causes problems later, when it is clear that conflicts have not been resolved, and the team has to slip backwards before it can move forwards again.

“Oh how interesting”, I hear you say, much like the Queen apparently says when she wants her chaperone to get her out of the science lab or whatever boring place she finds herself dutifully in.

Well, here’s the interesting bit.  Last week I was working with a team and witnessed this theory being blown totally away.

I was with the team at Musikscool, which you may or may not know I co-founded, and which sets out to help people to learn about themselves and their team though setting the challenge of writing and producing a 5 track music CD in just one day, and raising £10,000 for charity from it.  It’s an amazing experience for all involved, and it makes a real and sustained difference to people.  We run the event in schools and in business.

Every 6 months or so the Musikscool team gets together and puts itself through the challenge.  It’s a way of building our team, reminding ourselves of what the challenge is about, and of having the excuse of working with an outstanding bunch of talented people.

On Thursday last week we got together in Gloucestershire (and thus had to call the event Gloucestenbury, of course), and set about the task of writing and recording 5 songs from scratch.  On this occasion we welcomed no less than 4 new people to the 4 existing team members who could make it, thus creating a new team of 8 people on the day.  50% newcomers: surely this would mean we would start at Forming and have to work quickly through Storming in order to get to Norming and beyond if we were to have any chance of success?

Not a bit of it.  I kid you not, this team skipped Forming and Storming, and went straight to Norming and then quickly to Performing and, I think most of us agree, to Transforming, all in the space of 8 hours.  We created a 5 track CD of a quality we have never achieved before in 8 years of running this event.  All of us came away reeling somewhat at the achievement.  It is music that moves, inspires, energises and provokes, and I listened to it for 4 hours non stop on the way back down the M5.

How did this happen?  I think there is only one explanation for it.  We trusted each other.  Where there was a job to be done, a part to play, an idea needed, we allowed people to step into the space, built on the idea and carried it through.  There was no time for debate, assessing each others’ skills, trying out theories, disagreeing.  We believed in each other enough for us to take the main ideas forward from start to finish.  Most of the tracks were recorded with everyone involved playing/singing at the same time.  None of this “one at a time” nonsense, we had no time for it.  In the can, all of us doing our bit, listening, building, playing off each other.  I’m not sure I have ever known teamwork quite like it.

Next time I work with a team I am going to have a go at forgetting the Stages of Development model and go with something rather simpler.  Trust each other.  See what happens.

If you would like to hear more of the album we recorded: “The disappearing face of the Orang-Utan?” you can google it.  CD design by our amazing new guitarist, singer and designer, Stuart Roper.


Please also support the charity WSPA which is trying to protect the Orang-Utan in Borneo: our lead vocalist David Bell and partner Julie Lines are trekking in Borneo in November to raise awareness and funds to help save the Orang-Utan.  You can donate through Just Giving.  Thanks!