Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is This the Storming Stage?

You derailed a conversation in a meeting;
You made an unfair comment;
You spoke with too much emotion and not enough forethought;
Was that me?
What's that all about?

What was it about those conversations that made me react like that?

What does the team leader think of this situation?

"Soon, reality sets in and your team moves into a "Storming" phase. Your authority may be challenged as others jockey for position as their roles are clarified. The ways of working start to be defined, and as leader you must be aware that some members may feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do, or uncomfortable with the approach being used. Some react by questioning how worthwhile the goal of the team is and resist taking on tasks. This is the stage when many teams fail..."

This is a passage I took from psychologist Bruce Tuckman's 1965 description of the development process that teams go through (Norming, Storming, Forming and Performing). This is really resonating with me right now.

The storming stage makes me feel uncomfortable. At the same time, it is a new team, we don't know each other very well, and we are getting familiar enough now with one another to start to express a diversity of opinions even about very fundamental principles.

That could be the basis for an open conversation with the team leader. I can also apologize. What can I do right now to help us move through this stage and on to the norming and performing stages?

If this is the storming stage, I look forward to what comes next...

How Do You Play Yours? The Change Game

What was your experience? Dumisani Nyoni asks. What did you think and feel as you were playing the game?

The game had been simple. All thirty people in the room were asked to select (secretly) two others and stay equidistant from them throughout the game. Meanwhile two 'outsiders', unaware of the rules of the game, would come in and try and figure out the rules of the game. The reactions of the 'inside' players were diverse:

• I was simply focused on the task of keeping equidistant from the two players I had selected without letting them know I had picked them. It felt very egocentric and at the same time I found it fun.

• I found the game frustrating. I just wanted everyone to stop moving in the hope that I could stop also. I was frustrated by the effect of the other players on my game.

• Whilst playing the game, I wondered which of the other players had selected me and was trying to figure out what effect my movement was therefore having on others in the game.

• Finding the task simple and a little boring, I considered how the game might be changed and how I might bend the rules in order the achieve this.

• I puzzled over the relationship between the game, my life and work, asking myself how much choice I have and considering the implications of breaking the rules.

I found this really interesting. One game; one rule; multiple experiences. What a complex thing a game can be. Like with most systems in which we live and work, we make sense of it and interact with it in so many different ways. Sometimes we 'go with the flow'. Sometimes we want the system to change and yet make no effort to change it. Sometimes we try to understand the system and figure out how we can change the system into one that works better for us, or for others involved. Other times we don't want to be a part and ask ourselves – how can I get out?

How can the game metaphor help me think about the systems in which I am living and working? What game(s) am I playing? How am I playing the game? And what do I think and feel about it?

What's my game? And what's yours?