Smugglers and Skywalkers: The Life Cycle of Successful Teams
What’s been your biggest achievement today? Have you by any chance destroyed a Death Star, brought down an Empire, and become a fully-fledged Jedi, all while rescuing a Princess and redeeming one of the universe’s most feared evil enforcers, in only one day? If you haven’t, you may need to take a good long look at yourself.
Of course, we’re just kidding. Any avid Star Wars fan would know that Luke and co. didn’t accomplish all those things in a single day. And it was hardly a walk in the park either. Mutilation, mass genocide, and ravenous space worms are just some of the obstacles the world’s favourite space rebels had to overcome on their way to victory.
And even before all that, they had to get used to working together in the first place. Their achievements would have been completely out of reach had they not learnt to trust each other and collaborate effectively. And although it all took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Rebel group had to overcome the same challenges that face teams working together every day.
All teams generally follow a similar journey, as they progress from meeting and greeting to succeeding and achieving. Obviously, it’s highly unlikely that there’ll be two plucky robots and a Wookie in the ranks, but that’s not to say that any one team is homogenous. There’s always a diverse range of people with a variety of personalities, working preferences and behaviours, and if they can’t blend together smoothly, the end result could end up being rather sticky.
Psychologist Bruce Tuckman identified four primary stages of developing teams: forming, storming, norming and performing.
- Forming. In this stage, teams come together for the first time. Members are introduced to each other and the work ahead of them. They start to get to know one another, and are initially positive and polite.
As it says on the tin, in Star Wars Luke and co. first meet each other during the Forming phase. When encountering Han and Chewbacca, Luke and Obi-Wan make their best effort to put on a good impression and negotiate a workable plan of action despite Han’s initial arrogance. Getting trapped on the Death Star during their journey to Alderaan, they meet the feisty Princess Leia, and the team gains its final ally. All players are on the board, and must find the best strategy for group success.
- Storming. In this stage, team members’ differences become apparent, and may lead to discord. The task in hand is relegated to the back burner as the team tries to find the best way of working together.
It goes without saying that it doesn’t take long for the Star Wars posse to descend into Storming. Need we mention Luke’s ‘what a piece of junk!’ jibe towards the Millennium Falcon, or Leia’s seething dismissal of Chewbacca as a ‘big walking carpet’? Instead of trading shots with the Stormtroopers, the Rebels spend most of their time firing insults at each other. Rather than excelling and performing, their rising conflict and discord almost gets them crushed to death in a trash compactor.
- Norming. In this stage, the teams harmonise, having identified shared values and strengths and gained the knowledge of how to apply them effectively to the challenge.
Eventually, following their escape from the Death Star and the loss of Obi-Wan, the Rebels begin to find a middle ground. Leia and Han comfort Luke, and C-3PO and Chewbacca even enjoy a leisurely game of space chess. Luke and Han successfully destroy some TIE Fighters, everyone celebrates, and upon reaching the Rebel base they finally begin drawing up a plan of attack.
- Performing. This is where teams really come into their element. They reach peak effectiveness, and everyone is motivated to reach the goal. By combining their unique skills and abilities, they successfully complete the challenge.
It goes without saying that the Rebels reach their peak effectiveness during the Battle of Yavin. Successfully combining their talents and strengths – Leia’s strategic know-how, Luke’s piloting prowess and Han’s shooting skills – they take down the Imperials and lay waste to the first Death Star. Talk about a tough day at work!
While they may not be toppling Empires or destroying WMDs, the teams in our organisations nonetheless accomplish amazing things every day. Every success is worth celebrating, and every team worth commending.
It’s only natural for conflict to arise at some point during the teambuilding process. But Storming doesn’t necessarily mean downright defeat. If your team can’t quite get along, just stop and think: everyone has something unique to bring to the table, so how could those skills be combined into a group performance even the Rebels would be envious of?
PRINT can help your team roll their sleeves up and get stuck in by communicating and collaborating more effectively. Leading to less reaction, and more action.
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