Teams are usually happy when initially formed, however, soon conflict begins to occur. There is a science behind why this happens.

The PM must talk to the team so they understand, use tools and techniques to help get the team through the low periods.  It is just a phase everyone is going to have to get through and have faith that it will pass and you will get to the next stage.

There are 5 main stages a team flows through from when they first meet to when they are leaving the team.

See video below to help explain:

As described in the video, the stages are further defined below also with a Recommendation/Action that the PM can carry out:
1)    Forming – the team first meets one another, it is superficial, members are wondering if the team is a good fit, what others are like, how they will get along.  First impressions are made (whether they are accurate or not) and most people do not reveal much about themselves. 

During this stage the PM needs to foster team unity and help start laying the foundations to build trusting relationships.  Ensure all members are aware of the project objectives, boundaries and the code of conduct or existing Human Resource processes to be followed.  Also clearly document the roles and responsibilities and provide the required tools, resources, work areas, equipment, etc. as early as possible or address outstanding gaps.

2)    Storming – the team members now start to assert themselves.  Personalities start to come out and may conflict with others.  Control issues start to emerge, misunderstandings of roles and responsibilities are generally an example of one area of stress and conflict.  Stresses of the project may start to appear and test the resources.  Personality strengths and opportunities to improve also start to become more evident.

During this stage the PM needs to identify conflicts as early as possible and address them with the appropriate conflict management technique.  Project issues and concerns must be discussed addressed.  Encourage team members to get involved in solving the problems together.  Include the team, recognize the team and be supportive, positive and enthusiastic.

3)    Norming -  the team starts to work productively and performance levels and output starts to increase.  Conflicts still exist but people are learning how to interact with each other.  Smaller subgroups may also be forming.  Conflicts generally start to be around project or process issues and not around personality differences.  Levels of trust start to appear. 

During this stage the PM must encourage team members to continue to work together and leverage each others skills.  Actively seek out the small groups and promote larger group participation and cooperation.  Confirm ground rules for team interaction and accept people for who they are and respect what they bring to the team.  Healthy debates bring different perspectives, identify examples of trust and build upon them.

4)    Performing – the team is working at a strong level of productivity, the optimum level is achieved or breaking new ground on higher and higher levels.  Conflicts are generally solved by the team members themselves.  Respect, safety and trust is evident between all members and friendships begin to form. 

During this stage, the PM should continue to look for opportunities to promote a more cohesive unit and further enable the momentum.  Also start to look at future needs, e.g. training, coaching, mentoring, provide motivation by conducting more social and open team building events.

5)    Adjourning – the project is wrapping up and winding down.  The team is happy about the new found relationships that have been established but also is sad to leave and may feel anxious about the next project coming up.

During this stage the PM should emphasize the positives in terms of how the team has evolved and the accomplishments that have been achieved.  Formalize a contact list and emphasize the importance of maintaining the network.  Plan a future team event and book it in everyone’s calendar (before everyone disperses).