Storming: and we are not talking about the weather

There is a phenomenon known in organizations as forming-storming-norming-performing-adjourning that speaks of the the life of the behavior of an organization experiencing change or major transition. It beckons us to understand the strife caused and experienced when big shifts occur and how to best maximize the true potential of a team.

It’s officially known as the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing – Adjourning model of group development and was first proposed by a man by the name of Bruce Tuckman in 1965, who maintained that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results.

I have been fascinated by this process since I worked with high school kids in leadership development many moons ago. I’ve come to interpret the model a little more loosely over the years and see how, in ways, it gets played out beyond work groups or teams in a professional environment.

I have seen over the years how this process shows up in relationships, among children, and even individual responses to change or challenging situations.

And while there is no I in team, I have also seen how it plays out  in  my own life.

In the first stage of forming, we are driven by a desire to be accepted, avoid conflict and behaviors reflect this: we stay focused on busy-work, making impressions of what’s to come and how to survive in this environment.  Then, we start storming, where individuality starts getting expressed and the variety of personalities and problem-solving styles begin to emerge; a truly necessary phase.  Eventually, the bumps are smoothed out and the group begins what is called norming, where  a mutual goal is the common objective and consensus is embraced to move towards the end result.  Nearing the final stage, the successful team is able to function as a unit and reach the performing stage and get things done beyond what they envisioned, without prompting, supervision or too much conflict. Adjourning  involves completing the task and breaking up the team.

Yes, I have seen this play out in my work settings over and over; it’s almost inevitable in a work environment with multiple players.

What’s interesting to me is that I have sensed incarnations of these stages, in their own way, in other settings too. For example,  among kids in play and friendships time again: imagine the initial excitement which morphs into conflict that smooths over into working it out and results, ultimately, thankfully, in some kind of fun.

I have seen this when arriving at a destination for the first time: the excitement, the newness, everything seems shiny and perfect, only to start to settle in and realize the water pressure isn’t what you would like, and then you realize that the service or accommodations are not exactly to your satisfaction, but ultimately, you adjust, overlook the idiosyncratic imperfections and sink into enjoying this temporary home. And further, return home with some beautiful memories.

But what really struck me, is that I am seeing this right now, in my own life. I have not been secretive about the fact that change has been a very close and constant companion of late; and granted while I, in some ways, beckoned this change, it is no less challenging, daunting, thrilling and cloudy at the same time. Each day brings a new layer of awareness, of emotion, and realization of what this change really means to me. It plays out in my friendships. My job. My parenting. My finances. My dreams.

The change is not new, and yet so very new. We are talking infancy stages of new. I am forming; and yes, I am driven by a desire to be accepted and to avoid any more conflict. I have been focused on the tasks set before my hands, and the therapeutic value that nothing can provide better than that of emptying a box, painting a cabinet and organizing a new closet.

Oh yes, I am forming. Or is it re – forming?

ClayHands (1)

I am keenly aware of each and every friendship and relationship; whether old and established to new and yes, forming.  I would also say that because I’m in the midst of change, I have friendships in each of these four stages. Change is kind of like making popcorn – as each kernel springs to life, they all have to shift to make room for the new one!

As a  mother, in the throes of transition, I am forming; every day, but driven to be both the same exact and yet a better mom than I was pre-change while navigating life with new parameters, with new schedules, with new realities.

My bank account and I are definitely still forming; making daily agreements with each other and my dreams reveal truths I didn’t know were there.

While I can’t see past my own nose on some days, I am confident that this forming bit will find some resolution at some point; life has a way of working out. To-do lists have a way of getting done. Emotions have a way of smoothing out. Bumps have a way of flattening. Yes, the forming will get done and when it does, let the storming begin. My inner ‘team’ –  with many voices [inner critic, creative, practical, playful, sensitive] will no doubt emerge and have competing  ideas for how how to do this I suspect. (And hopefully, it’s a team that will work in harmony.)  As will some confusion over which problems I am really supposed to solve, how will I function in a truly independent manner and what ‘leadership model’ I will choose for myself, or what perhaps will choose me.

What will be tempting? To focus on little things that are not really that important to distract me from the bigger, harder, crazier decisions.


Storming is necessary. It has to happen. It will happen. According to Tuckman’s model, storming can be “contentious, unpleasant and even painful..and without tolerance and patience, the efforts will fail”. Uh-oh…I am not sure where my umbrella is, but, I do have that sexy new coral trench coat that I purchased on my recent time travels.  I have the shelter of amazing friends and siblings. I have patience and resilience.


Let the storms roll in.



23 thoughts on “Storming: and we are not talking about the weather

    • Tom,

      What a great idea! I love that, a T-shirt with that message. I really appreciate you stopping by here and your comments – means so much! Thank you,



  1. yes to the trench coat 🙂 You have such a lovely way with words! Having only worked for myself for what seems like ever, I hadn’t heard of your storming etc, but it does give what could be chaos a better framework for being understood. I also like your popcorn kernel-change analogy, and not only because it’s about food 😉

    Life is absolutely all about shifting and learning to adapt. Staying the same may bring comfort, but it’s way more exhilarating to ride the roller coaster. (did you see Parenthood?)

    Wonder what search terms folks will use to find this post?


    • Liz! Hi, thank for stopping by! {speaking of which…did you see my recently updated “Reads I Dig” section on the right hand side of my blog? 🙂

      Yes to the trench! Yay for that!

      Thank you so much for your awesome comment – that just makes my day, you know that, right? The leadership model is amazing, I have observed it in action for so long now, but I can see how working for yourself would lend a whole different perspective on things. I am so glad you noticed, and liked… the popcorn analogy – it just ‘popped’ into my head at the last edit! 🙂

      When you say Parenthood, do you mean the TV series that ended last spring? If so, I loved that show! Life is constantly in flux [esp lately!] but yes, would definitely rather ride the roller coaster and see, learn, and experience more!

      Hmmm…search terms…good point! Will have to check back under the hood for that one. Hope your Friday is Fab..any fun plans for the weekend?


      • Parenthood the movie way back when with Steve Martin. There was a cool roller coaster scene. Thanks for the fun facebook messages. It’s on my list to reply 🙂 “Yes to the Trench” is a fantastic battle cry.


        • Oh, right! The movie, yes! I do remember.My short term memory was jumping to action before long term memory – Great film!!
          Love it: battle cry !! Yes to the trench – almost makes me wish for colder weather. But only almost!


  2. What a wonderful post, Bonnie. I’m pretty sure most of my life fits into the ‘storming’ stage at the moment and I’m looking forward to ‘norming’ very soon 😉


    • Dianne..thank you so much! I would say that in the recent months, there has been a decent dose of storming for you. I hope too, that soon, you are norming, and hopefully on that beautiful veranda of yours with a cool adult beverage in hand, admiring your many doors! .)


  3. I love that photo at the end. SO MUCH!!! Loved this entire post, too … will be coming back with more thoughts once I get through a day of “storming” with my own team for sure!


    • Thanks Amb!! I am SO glad…I almost didn’t use it!! Hope your day of storming was productive and you can come back by anytime, you know that!!


  4. Another intriguing piece. I feel there is some storming going on in my life too. I would love to rush through to the rainbow on the other side but will take inspiration from you, my friend, to meet the storm head on with some grace, I hope. Thanks, Bon, for this gift!


    • Tiff…thank you! Omg..yes, to get to the rainbow in short order would be lovely, but perhaps not as much as it will be after weathering the storm(s) that somehow just must come. You have all the grace you need, but perhaps we can join forces and find a way to meet things head on. Your comment is the gift sweetie.


  5. You rocked this BonBon – as you always do…Sometimes I think these stages can happen almost concurrently – bumping into each other and adding a little ‘wtf’ to the equation. But you know your process, you accept it and are not shying away from moving through it – and it is but another reason why I think you are already extraordinary….xoxo


    • Mims…thank you, risky business venturing out into the storm. And you are totally right, the varying stages do sometimes occur concurrently definitely adding doses of ‘wtf’ along the way. I do and will move through it, but a sunny day on the beach would be most welcome at any time! 🙂 xoxo


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