This week, we began to explore the different stages that a team progress through as they work together. These five stages are as follows:
While each stage is important, let’s take a few minutes (or perhaps several) to explore the final stage of adjourning. During this stage, groups are able to wrap up their projects and “reflect on their accomplishments and failures” (O’Hair & Wiemann, 2012, p. 257). It is also during this time that teams are able to celebrate their accomplishments and have “the opportunity to say good-bye to each other and wish each other luck as they pursue their next endeavor” (Abudi, 2011, p. 3). Have you ever experienced this stage when working within a group? How did performance standards and norms affect these groups? I know that I have been in numerous group situations over the years that ranged in performance and expectation levels, which did impact how well that specific group approached that adjourning stage. Here are just a few examples …
That Time I Worked With …
Alright, so I currently work with middle school students in a multiple disabilities support. During this past school year, the team that I worked with was dynamic! We worked so well together that we often did not even need to verbally talk about what to do next. We picked up on each other’s jokes and puns, while effectively working together. When we have to take care of the physical needs of the students, we willingly all pitched in to help, and our flow was so smooth that we surprised ourselves sometimes. We easily reached that performing stage, where we had “gotten to know each other, trust each other and rely on each other” (Abudi, 2011, p. 2). Our excellent team work was not only evident in our relationships, but our students made fantastic strides over the year.
Now, compare that to the next working situation when I was a teacher working with two paraprofessionals. From the start, it was obvious that we didn’t work that well together. I had to repeatedly give instructions and constantly keep them on track. There would be days when one or both paraprofessionals would come strolling in 15-20 minutes late, after I had gotten the students off the bus. When I approached the team about their performance, one of them came back at me with an attitude that effected how well he worked that day. This team struggled to pull together and assist the students. Our low-performance team did manage to make it through the adjourning stage that simply consisted of a “good-bye,” and we all parted ways.
That Time I Lived With …
During my college years, I experienced two (nearly opposite) living situations. For about 3 years, I lived with one other gal who literally was like my other half. Her weaknesses balanced out my strengths, and vice versa. We had the same sleeping patterns and similar class schedules. There were countless times that we enjoyed meals out, shopping together, and even vacations together. We complimented and completed each. We essentially became family. To this day, years later after completing my degree, we still maintain contact and visit each other frequently. Although there were only two of us, it was apparent that as a team, we were effective!
My last semester of college (my previous roommate graduated earlier than I did), I was roomed with a few ladies that were more acquaintances than friends. Sure, we were nice to each other and respected each other’s space, but it was a much different group experience that my past three years. I did not do much with these ladies, and I preferred to keep to myself. Our schedules were complete opposites to the point that we didn’t get to see much of each other. Although we were a group living in the same environment, we never really worked together towards a common goal. Rather we held on to our own individual’s interests and goals.
High-Performance & Established Norms
As groups proceed through the different stages of group development, their effectiveness relies heavily on their performance levels and establishment of norms. For groups with a low performance and/or poorly established norms, it may be difficult to reach the performing stage, where “teams are functioning at a very high level” (Abudi, 2011, p. 2). In addition, low performance and poorly established norms may make the adjourning stage not as meaningful. Group members may be excited to leave the group, rather than embrace the time to remember memories and say good-bye.
On the other hand, groups with those high-performance levels and well-established norms should be able to reach a high level of effectiveness and work efficiency. Reaching that performing stage can be an easy task to accomplish, as everyone will be able to “combine their skills and knowledge to work toward the group’s goals and overcome hurdles” (O’Hair & Wiemann, 2012, p. 257). Upon the adjourning stage, it may be difficult to say good-bye. After working together as one entity, it may be an emotional task to say good-bye from a group that has been near and dear to your heart. These high-performance, established norms groups may also agree to maintain contact to continue their relationships (Abudi, 2011).
Consider these performance standards and established norms in relation to the examples I gave. When working with the group during the school year, we upheld clearly established norms, which provided a sense of consistency for everyone (including the students). We also were all committed to a high-performance, helping each other along the way. At the end of the school year, it was hard to say good-bye and part our separate ways. We had made so many memories together, that it was hard to let go of that dynamic group. The same goes for my college roommate of three years. Our parting was bittersweet. We both knew that we were off to achieve our life ambitions, but so much of who we were stemmed from our relationship (or very small group). In both these examples, high performance and clearly established norms contributed to a meaningful adjourning stage that lead to a promise of maintaining contact even after our group experience ended.
In contrast, when working with the two paraprofessionals and living with the small group of ladies, it was apparent that both groups had low-performance expectancy without clearly defined norms. This lead to ineffective team work, as well as an abrupt and brief adjourning stage. I do not keep in contact with either group, as I did not feel a need to continue relationships. Looking through these scenarios, I was able to identify that those groups with high-performance levels and clearly established norms have the hardest time saying good-bye and parting ways.
It’s Time To Say Good-Bye …
Part of the adjourning stage involves coming to an end and saying good-bye (Abudi, 2011; O’Hair & Wiemann, 2012). When considering the four different groups I referenced above, I think I had the hardest time saying good bye to the team that I worked with during the school year and my college roommate of 3 years. This was due to the fact that we established a relationship that was rooted in deep trust and respect. We truly looked out for the well-being of each other, rather than holding tight to our own individual interests. Working with these two groups was such a pleasant experience that I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In addition, we worked well together. It was like we became one. As we reached that adjourning stage, it was difficult to say good-bye to the effective group that we had established (both in regards to the work environment and my roommate) and to the daily interactions that we all so enjoyed.
How Do You Say Good-Bye?
So, by now, you may start to realize that the groups with high-performance levels and clearly established norms were indeed the hardest for me to say good-bye. Yet, how exactly did we complete that adjourning stage? What rituals did we complete to help us say good-bye? Well, let me further explain …
With both my group during the school year and my college roommate of 3 years, we enjoyed a prolonged adjourning stage that lasted about a week. We took our time reliving memories and sharing how much we valued each other. Although it was bittersweet, we took the opportunities to truly instill into each other how much our group (however small) meant to us. In addition, for our last group outing, we enjoyed a meal together. We laughed and cried together, remembering how well our group interacted. When it came time to that final good-bye, it was filled with tears and hugs, with promises to keep in touch. Due to the tight bond in each group, I have maintained contact with everyone from both groups.
Sadly, the closing rituals for the other two situations (rooming with a few other ladies and working with two paraprofessionals) were little to none. We did not really relive memories, nor did we dread saying good-bye. In fact, I felt relieved that I did not have to participate in those groups. We didn’t share a meal together, nor did we give any hugs for that final good-bye. Rather, our adjourning stage was short and sweet with a simple good-bye and good luck. There has been no contact since these two groups finished working together.
While working on my Master’s Degree ..
Groups or teams come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from just two members (like my college roommate) to a virtual group that comes together through the common bonds of technology. That means YOU! As colleagues, we have come together through the virtual classroom and shared our experiences, knowledge, and stories with each other. The more we get to know each other, the more we bond. The further we proceed in our courses, the more we must rely on. Indeed, as colleagues working towards our Master’s degrees together, we have truly formed a bond and become a team. So, how do we say good-bye? Well, since I have about another year before I have to think about that, I do imagine that it will be bittersweet. For nearly two years, you all have listened to me rambled on through discussion posts, blogs, and sometimes emails. I imagine that as we come together to graduate, we will enjoy getting to (hopefully) see each other in person. I imagine that we will be able to share a meal together to celebrate our accomplishments, while pouring over memories from classes. Finally, as it’s time to part, I hope that we will commit to staying in touch with each other, offering support in the upcoming years.
No, really, Adjourning is Important!
Sure, I will admit, there have been times when I wanted to just skip the adjourning stage and walk away from a group after the last goal was accomplished. But really … it is important to go through the final stage of adjourning. This is an essential stage of teamwork, as it will provide an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and successes in hopes to learn how to work better as a team in the future (should the team ever come back together). In addition, it will also create an opportunity for closure for the entire team. Rather than just completing the last assignment and walking away, the team will be able to say good-bye and have a sense of completion. Finally, adjourning will be able to help each team member identify how they personally performed within a group. Perhaps someone will learn that they need to be more assertive when working on a team or maybe they need to allow others to lead. This self-reflection and evaluation for team members will help individuals learn how to be more effective in future group situations.
So, overall, this post really serves to show how I have learned that the adjourning stage is significant within any group situation. Since I had the chance to say good-bye in all examples, I feel accomplished and ready to move on. Without this opportunity to even say good bye, I think I would have always wondered how the other team members felt. Furthermore, I learned a lot about myself through the adjourning stage, like how to be a better team player and how to improve my communication ability. So, that adjourning stage is essential after all.
Abudi, G. (2010). The five stages of team development: A case study. Retrieved from http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/the-five-stages-of-team-development-a-case-study.html
O’Hair, D., & Wiemann, M. (2012). Real communication: An introduction. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.