Last night (1.17.13) began with a challenge. The group had to use PVC piping to transfer six “radioactive nuggets” (orange Gobstoppers) through four designated stations before finally depositing them in the containment vessel. Each guy was given a specific role — “plumbers” could only touch the piping; “hands” could only touch the orange nuggets in each station; and the “utility” was a single guy who could only touch other objects (doors, light switches, etc.). If anybody touched the wrong thing, or dropped a nugget, it was game over. Needless to say, the team beasted it (after a few tries). Here’s some footage:
That led to the topic of the night — small group dynamics and “Tuckman’s stages.” This Tuckman guy says that people follow a set of patterns when they’re becoming a group together. It goes like this:
When the group first gets together, we’re getting acquainted with one another and what’s going on. We have a lot of questions: “What is my role? What is this about? Who are these people?”
At this point people usually try to avoid controversy or conflict, and want to be accepted by others. Call it the “honeymoon stage.” Team members are usually on their best behavior but very focused on themselves, and can behave very independently.
After the honeymoon, there’s conflict. Team members start to have their own ideas, and each person is driven by private goals. Different ideas compete for consideration. People want to see things go their way.
We wrestle with the big questions together: “What are our real goals? How will we work together and independently? What kind of leadership will we have?” Storming can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the team who dislike conflict. Without patience and good dialogue (with listening) the team will fail.
After the storm, the group starts to think of itself as a single unit. It’s not about “I or me” anymore but it’s about “we.” We settle in on some goals, agree on a plan (even if it means compromise), and start getting to work. We want to see the group succeed, together.
When the group does more than just work together, the real “high-performance” stuff starts to happen. At this stage, everyone is involved, work is efficient and satisfying. Conflict happens but it’s expected and allowed as long as it goes through the right channels.
Last night we saw the stages in our team with the PVC-pipe challenge. More importantly, we it in the Sons of Thunder at-large. We’re all still getting acquainted. We’re honing in on our direction and goals and leadership. We’re trying to prayerfully submit all of that to God. And circumstances are always changing. New people join us and we’re “forming” all over again. New tasks pop up and we need to “storm” and “norm” all over again. These stages come in cycles. And Tuckman says that there’s no guarantee that a group ever makes it through them. We can get stuck in one and never fulfill our potential.
So the challenge to us all is to be present and engaged, and to be willing to share our ideas. We have to be okay with some level of conflict, and work hard to make sure it’s the healthy kind that leads to growth. We can never decide to just “take our ball and go home.” Some of us who are talkers and leaders might need to be listeners and followers, and vice versa. We need to see ourselves as a unit, that moves as one. And we can’t sink into any ruts, or stop innovating and getting stronger. If we commit to being “high performance” in deed and in word and in love, for the sake of God’s glory, then we’ve done as much as any man can do.