What is Team Building and the Five Stages of Team Development

what is team building

What is team building?

Team building is a group activity aimed at improving the employees’ interactions and interpersonal skills as a whole. It is a process designed to bring individuals together to work towards a common goal while enhancing the group’s overall effectiveness. Team building activities should be prepared to meet specific objectives appropriate to the organization.

Team building plays a significant role in any organization. While each team member may have a different job role, and therefore additional responsibilities, a team is only as strong as its weakest link. Team building is an opportunity for team members to understand each other better. This increases productivity and improves communication, making the team function more smoothly overall.

Five stages of team development

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman, a psychologist who did research on group dynamics, published a paper on the “Five Stages of Team Development” which categorizes and simplifies how teams coalesce and activate.The stages contain a common pattern for all teams and are important to any team leader. 

The Five stages of team development of Invite Japan

These five stages are referred to as Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. In brief, the team goes from a group of individuals who do not know much about each other to a cohesive unit that performs well together.

Forming Stage

The first stage of team development is “Forming”. Group members at this stage do not know each other and can not assess each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They have not yet formed a sense of identity as a team. Even so, the group is beginning to demonstrate signs of teamwork, such as when members consistently complete tasks that no one individual could complete by themselves.

The team members are just coming together and are focused on how the team will work together in the future.

The team members work together on tasks, but there may be some conflict in the team. A good leader can help the team stay on track, and the tasks are usually simple. During this stage, the team members are not sure what the team leader expects of them. Therefore, a leader should make sure that all tasks are clearly defined.

During this stage, team building activities like ice-breakers and getting-to-know you challenges that push members to meet each other and talk informally are good for allowing teams to start off on the right footing and creating a strong foundation for working relationships. 

Storming Stage

The storming stage is arguably the most difficult and challenging one to pass through. This is a process of establishing a shared vision, direction, and purpose,as well as the need to clarify individual roles and responsibilities. It is characterized by increased emotion among members. 

This stage can be the most challenging for the team leader, who must keep the team focused on its goals while still allowing the team to come to its own conclusions and discuss issues openly. 

Conflicts between members are highly possible, given the fact that this stage is about consolidating ideas and visions, which team members are likely to feel strongly about. A good team leader must balance competing or conflicting ideas and visions while maintaining team integrity. It is also important to keep in mind that team members are really still getting to know each other, and need more encouragement to do so. 

During this phase, the team can also easily become off track, and if it does, it’s important to realize that members are frustrated that they do not yet have a defined identity, and they may take this frustration out of leadership.

During this stage, team building activities that are fun while teaching group members to make collective decisions would be recommended. The storming stage can be stressful, and so team members need to have some release. However, team members will also benefit from learning how to make decisions together in a low-stakes environment, so that they can use those same tools in their workplace. 

Norming Stage

This stage occurs once the team members recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and realize they can rely on each other to meet their own needs. It is the longest of the stages of team development, and it usually takes many months for this stage to be accomplished. In this development stage, team members begin to see each other as equals, and they also start to function more effectively as a team. They have now gained the ability to complete small projects or assignments independently.

While it may seem that teams have reached a good spot following the storming stage, there is the potential that the team will plateau at this stage. To counteract this, team building activities that challenge teams to solve higher-order problems and achieve more complex tasks together can help teams stay on their feet. 

Performing Stage

The fourth stage of team development is called the performing stage. This stage is usually reached once the team is in harmony with each other and the members of the team work well together.

Now, the team members can fully concentrate on their tasks and work together to reach team goals.

Teams at this stage are usually highly effective and productive. However, they can still benefit from regular team building sessions that test their strengths and weaknesses and keep them in fighting form. Celebrating successes and challenging themselves to increase openness and psychological safety will also help these teams stay at this level.

Adjourning Stage

This stage can mean the dissolution of the group (due to transfers, retirements, etc.) or the end of a project or phase. The focus is on completing the final tasks and finishing documentation of effort and outcomes. Eventually, the team members start to feel comfortable with one another as they continue working together and learning from one another. 

This may indicate that they feel more comfortable being themselves, or it may mean that they feel comfortable enough with each other to openly disagree with each other’s opinions. 

Either way, this should not be seen as the end of team development, but rather as the beginning of a new chapter. Once teams have entered this stage, it is good to start thinking about the future–who will you add to the team? What will you pivot to? What is the next goal? 

For this stage, we recommend activities that focus on raising lateral thinking ability, creativity, and imaginative capacities, like improv for example. Such activities can help your team think of brand new ideas and paths forward. 

What is the importance of team building?

Team building is essential for team members to learn how to work together to achieve a specific goal. Furthermore, team building is also a way for team members to learn how they work individually and learn to trust each other. For example, team members need to work together on a project to complete it, so they should know each other by finding out each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Team building has become popular for companies, and it is easy to see why. There is no doubt that the ability to work well together is one of the most important things for any organization (business, school, etc.).

Colleagues working together to solve a puzzle as a team building exercise.

The value of teamwork is evident when you look at the most successful organizations globally. Take for example, Apple. Steve Jobs was an incredibly creative individual who always saw opportunities where no one else did, which also inspired the people behind him to work incredibly hard. His vision was so captivating that the company is still thriving and making billions even after his death.

Benefits of team building activities

The term’ team building’ can be interpreted in many different ways. It can mean being a part of a positive environment where people can be themselves, have fun, or become more confident. Although teams have various purposes for different individuals, it is generally recognized that individuals’ performance is enhanced when they are part of a team.

In today’s world, it is both crucial and necessary to be a team player, and it is a skill in high demand. An excellent way to develop this skill is through team building activities. It enhances one’s ability to see beyond one’s personal views and gain a new perspective while taking part in team building activities. It enables us to think outside the box and connect with others in a new and unique way.

Read more about the benefits of team building

Objective of team building

Activities such as team building are an excellent way to strengthen bonds between colleagues. There are many business-related reasons why employers should invest in team building activities. Every organization can benefit from team building activities in the following ways:

  • Bring team closer together
  • Learn something together
  • Celebrate together
  • Build trust together
  • Become a more efficient team together

Historically, military teams have often engaged in team building activities, since military unit members needed to work together more and be accustomed to each other’s personalities in order to be effective on the field.

Today, businesses are also incorporating team building into their corporate training programs when they feel that their employees need to better understand each other and build better connections amongst themselves. For example, some businesses incorporate team building activities into their annual staff retreats. These could include learning about the different teams’ cultures or doing a trust exercise to help the members of each team bond. Another example is holding a team building activity at the beginning of the year for new hires. This allows the new hires to get to know their coworkers better and feel more comfortable in a new environment.

Read more about the core objectives of team building

Purpose of Team Building

Understanding the purpose of team building activities can help your team choose the right activity that fits their needs, instead of an activity that just fills the time. In other words, there is some method to the madness. Team building activities are designed to make teams more effective, create a space for teams to grow, help teams bond, and inspire teams to be their best.  

Advantages and disadvantages of team building activities

There are many cases of teams simply choosing team building activities for the sake of it, or to fill time or a budget. That’s why, counterintuitively, it might be good to reflect some of the disadvantages of team building as well as its advantages. That way, you can be more prepared when it comes time to choose an activity, and to use those concerns about team building to create solutions.

Read more about the Advantages and disadvantages of team building activities

How does team building work?

In order to select the right team building activity, it is important to recognize how team building works and what makes a successful activity. Team building employs specific strategies to help your team learn, grow and succeed together.

Team building activities give teams a separate space in which to challenge them in low stakes environments, outside of the regular daily routine, and where they can discover their strengths, learn together, and create new memories.

Read more about how team building works

What Makes an Effective Team?

One of the main goals of team building is to make teams more effective–but what does that really mean? In fact, there’s a lot of research out there on what makes teams effective, and it’s more than just about “getting the job done”.

Before embarking on your team building journey, it might be good to take some time to think about this question. We’ve distilled team effectiveness to these aspects:

•Openness/Honest communication

•Helping each other

•Engaging with Diversity

•Dealing with challenges

•Common purpose

•Team structure

•Getting help from the outside

Read more about what makes an effective team

Team building activities your team won’t hate

Fun is essential to team building activities–making your team members more open with each other and willing to learn and grow. We’ve collected four great team building activities that combine fun with team skill development to make the search for the right activity that your whole team can enjoy a little bit easier:

  1. Outdoor Scavenger Hunt – This activity gets teams outside and active, as they search for clues in different areas of a city.
  2. Online Team Building – The perfect activity for remote or hybrid teams that combines fun challenges with the communication technology that is widely used today.
  3. Suitcase Mystery – Transform your office into an out-of-this-world team building space with this dispatch game that can be played anywhere your team is.
  4. Improv Workshop – Expand your team’s spontaneity and creativity (and get ready to laugh together a lot) using improv acting activities. 

Read more about fun team building activities

Types of team building workshops

Workshops are great for supplementing your team building activities with more educational input and context. Sometimes these workshops are based on team dynamics or organizational models. There are a wide variety of workshops out there, and each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses.

Some of the workshops we discuss are:

•Belbin Team Roles

•PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act)

•GRPI (Goal, Roles, Process, Interaction)

•Myers–Briggs Type Indicator

•Tuckman’s 5 Stages of Team Development

•Psychological Safety


Read more about types of team building workshops


Team building activities are an effective way to activate your team and to increase efficiency and productivity. As teams these days face more complex issues, it is crucial that your team remains strong and in shape. Furthermore, no matter what stage of development you team is at, it will benefit from team building activities that are planned on a regular basis. Just like any workout or strength-training program, routine team building is better than one-off sessions. 

Invite Japan can help you plan your team building program. We offer a whole suite of programs for different teams with different needs. Whether your team is online, in the office, or looking for a large event to do outside, we have a program for you. And if we don’t, we will build a brand new one. Contact us to find out more or get a quote!

Related Articles