Implementing Lean Teams

Forming stage

The “forming” stage takes place when the team first meets each other. In this first meeting, team members are introduced to each. They share information about their backgrounds, interests and experience and form first impressions of each other. They learn about the project they will be working on, discuss the project’s objectives/goals and start to think about what role they will play on the project team. They are not yet working on the project. They are, effectively, “feeling each other out” and finding their way around how they might work together.

Storming stage

The storming stage is the most difficult and critical stage to pass through. It is a period marked by conflict and competition as individual personalities emerge. Team performance may actually decrease in this stage because energy is put into unproductive activities. Members may disagree on team goals, and subgroups and cliques may form around strong personalities or areas of agreement. To get through this stage, members must work to overcome obstacles, to accept individual differences, and to work through conflicting ideas on team tasks and goals. Teams can get bogged down in this stage. Failure to address conflicts may result in long-term problems.

Norming stage

If teams get through the storming stage, conflict is resolved and some degree of unity emerges. In the norming stage, consensus develops around who the leader or leaders are, and individual member’s roles. Interpersonal differences begin to be resolved, and a sense of cohesion and unity emerges. Team performance increases during this stage as members learn to cooperate and begin to focus on team goals. However, the harmony is precarious, and if disagreements re-emerge the team can slide back into storming.

Performing stage

In the performing stage, consensus and cooperation have been well-established and the team is mature, organized, and well-functioning. There is a clear and stable structure, and members are committed to the team’s mission. Problems and conflicts still emerge, but they are dealt with constructively. (We will discuss the role of conflict and conflict resolution in the next section). The team is focused on problem solving and meeting team goals.

Adjourning stage

In the adjourning stage, most of the team’s goals have been accomplished. The emphasis is on wrapping up final tasks and documenting the effort and results. As the work load is diminished, individual members may be reassigned to other teams, and the team disbands. There may be regret as the team ends, so a ceremonial acknowledgement of the work and success of the team can be helpful. If the team is a standing committee with ongoing responsibility, members may be replaced by new people and the team can go back to a forming or storming stage and repeat the development process.

  • Lean team vision
  • Team roles and responsibilities
  • Working agreements and user stories’ definition of done
  • Understanding and accepting differing personal styles of interaction
  • Display a willingness to listen can help alleviate conflict.
  • Encourage the speaker by asking questions and showing interest.
  • Validate the speaker. You can still show interest in the person while not necessarily agreeing with her or his point of view.
  • Restate the speaker’s message by paraphrasing main points.
  • Center the conflict by trying to find the key points of the message.
  • “You hurt the team when you don’t show up to conditioning on time.”
  • “I’m frustrated when you don’t show up to conditioning on time.”
  • Advising: “Well, I’ll tell you what I’d do . . . “
  • Diagnosing: “Your problem is that you . . . “
  • Discounting: “Cheer up, it’ll work out.”
  • Lecturing: “How many times do I have to tell you . . . “
  • Threatening: “This is the last time I will . . . “
  • Preaching: “You ought to know better than to . . . “
  1. Convey the value of your relationship with the person.
  2. Go slowly with what you want to communicate.
  3. Try to understand the other person’s position.
  4. Listen to what the other person is trying to communicate.
  5. Confront the situation, not the person.
  1. Communicate the solution; it is better to focus on the problem.
  2. Stop communicating.
  3. Use put-downs or sarcasm.
  4. Rely on nonverbal hints to communicate; be direct and forthcoming.
  5. Discuss the problem with others not associated with the conflict.



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Francesco Attanasio

Francesco Attanasio

Agile/Lean Coach and Trainer. Professional Scrum Master, Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM).