Remember your first day of school when you’re just starting to get to know your classmates? Everyone’s so polite and friendly with one another. And remember how, as time goes by, you learn more about your classmates’ quirks and personalities, and start to bond with some of them?
Well, it’s the same for members of a professional team too. Teams are made up of people with different personalities and strengths. Sometimes they get along well, and other times they might rub each other the wrong way. When members have a strong bond with each other, they collaborate better and achieve a higher level of productivity.
Here, we’ll share some tips and tricks on how you can strengthen your team by using an exercise called the Drucker Exercise.
But first, let’s touch more on how team members grow to develop bonds with each other. This is where the Tuckman Model of team development comes in handy.
What is the Tuckman Model?
The Tuckman Model is named after psychologist Bruce Tuckman who came up with a system to show team development and behavior. In this model, teams go through five stages of growth: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.
- Forming Stage: Members have just met and are getting to know each other. Their common goals are still being realized at this stage, so the team is not productive yet.
- Storming Stage: Each member’s role is gradually becoming more apparent and members find they have common goals. But, due to differences in perception and ways of thinking, conflicts arise between members.
- Norming Stage: Members begin to recognize and appreciate each other’s strengths. Although there is occasional conflict, everyone is working and making progress toward the goal.
- Performing Stage: The team is cohesive and supportive of each other. Members can work together as one without much supervision to achieve the goal to maximize results.
- Adjourning Stage: The final stage when the project has been completed and the team is disassembled. Because the members have bonded with each other, they are now sad that their days of being a team are over.
Understanding the Tuckman Model is the first step to making our teams more effective
The Tuckman Model suggests that teams mature through the first two stages of forming and storming. To start forming bonds, it’s necessary for the team members to spend time and effort on team-building after they’re assembled.
The storming stage is critical because some teams may never progress beyond it. When members disagree or experience conflict within the group, their frustration increases and may cause them to lose motivation for the goal or project. They could completely resist each other’s ideas or even start to work against each other to the detriment of the overall project.
On the other hand, if the team can successfully navigate through the storming phase and enter the norming and performing stages, members will be unified and work together to reach the best outcome for the project.
First, we’ll focus on the forming and storming stages while considering how to apply the Drucker Exercise for team-building.
What is the Drucker Exercise?
The Drucker Exercise is a team-building technique introduced in the book Agile Samurai by Jonathan Rasmusson and Naoto Nishimura. It’s called the Drucker Exercise because the exercise is comprised of questions inspired by Managing Oneself, a Peter Drucker* classic about how successful people manage themselves.
*Peter Drucker was a management consultant and author who has been hailed by BusinessWeek magazine as “the man who invented management.” Even though he passed away in 2005, his ideas and insights on management continue to be relevant and are still used today. Some famous quotes by him include:
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”
Back to the Drucker Exercise, the four questions are:
- What am I good at?
- How do I work?
- What do I value?
- How can I contribute to the project?
Answering these questions can not only help us to be more self-aware, but the exercise also helps the team to know both themselves and their coworkers better and see how they can all work together using their own individual strengths.
Create your own template for the Drucker exercise using Cacoo, our online diagramming/whiteboard tool.
What am I good at?
Consider your top three to five strengths. They could be that you’re good at math, meticulous and careful with details, or can communicate well, etc. Listing your strengths can help you and your team be more aware of your capabilities to make sure that you’re assigned tasks that will best utilize your skills.
How do I work?
This process reveals your work habits and how you prefer to work. You can ask yourself things like what are your most productive time periods? Do you use to-do lists? Do you prefer to work on tasks alone or independently? Answers can also include “I dislike being micromanaged”, or “I like to listen to music while working,” etc.
What do I value?
Values are standards or things that are important to you. Some people value frank and open feedback, TDD (test-driven development), or code reviews to improve their performance, or it could even be valuing personal time and preferring to not work on weekends, etc. These are all valid answers since it’s what you as an individual deem important for your work life.
How can I contribute to the project? Or what contributions can be expected of me?
Your answer will tell your team members in a more direct way what strengths you have to offer to reach the best possible project outcome. It complements the first question (“What am I good at?”) but is geared toward the project or team objectives. For example, you can work on backend development or you can write copy for the website, etc.
The Drucker Exercise, customized
These four seemingly simple questions are worth taking the time to think over. We can even tweak them to create additional questions to encourage deeper understanding or target specific situations.
Here are some examples:
|Original Questions||Additional Questions|
|How do I work?||How do I work remotely? Or how do I work at home?
Knowing each other’s remote work style will help team members work together more smoothly while they are physically apart. It’s useful to tackle this subject with in-depth questions such as “What are my working hours?”, “When do I usually take my lunch break?”, “How often will I check my work messages or task management tools?”, etc.
|What are my values?||What is my ‘landmine?’ Something that when stepped on by others, makes me angry or sad.
It’s important for us to understand the things that may cause negative emotions in our teammates, as this helps us to be aware and respectful of each other’s boundaries.
|How can I contribute to the project?||What do I expect from other team members?
This is an opportunity to hear each other’s expectations so that everyone can discuss and come to an agreement on what’s reasonable or acceptable. This helps to eliminate potential misunderstandings at work in the future due to mismatched expectations.
Applying the Drucker Exercise according to the Tuckman Model
|Forming Phase||Team members do not know each other yet.||Help team members know each other better.||
|Storming Phase||Conflicts arise in the group when mutual expectations are not met.||Reconcile expectations within the group.||
Team Forming Phase: Sharing about ourselves and our values
In this phase, the objective is getting to know ourselves and each other. Hence, the first three Drucker Exercise questions are useful: What am I good at? How do I work? What do I value?
Since the common goal of the team might not be defined in detail yet, it would be difficult to answer the fourth question: How can I contribute to the project/goal?
Team Storming Phase: Clarifying conflicts and balancing expectations
Successful team-building can be more difficult at the storming phase compared to the forming phase. During the forming phase, it involves disclosing information about yourself and letting team members know about you; the communication is one-way.
However, during the storming phase, two-way communication is required, because there needs to be an exchange of personal opinions and expectations. The exchange of opinions has to continue in order for members to find a balance between conflicting opinions and expectations about work.
Different expectations of behavior
It is common for individuals to have different expectations of work behavior and potential conflicts can arise due to these differences. For example, one member might be particular about sticking to timings while another member is more flexible or ‘loose’ with time. Or another member thinking that they are just expressing a frank opinion may be seen as being too harsh by another member.
Different expectations of behavior or values may become conflict landmines that we or others unwittingly step on. Therefore, the Drucker Exercise provides a way to directly express these potential landmines using the questions:
- What do I value?
- What are my landmines?
If we know what our coworker’s landmines are, we will be more able to avoid them. When we are about to step on a landmine, another team member will also be able to point out to us, “That’s their landmine, avoid it or be more delicate.”
Please note that at this point, the aim of the exercise is to learn about your team members, rather than to control their behavior. So, first of all, let’s just recognize that this is how this person works.
However, by answering these questions, we can identify ways our own behavior can directly affect the outcome of the project. Based off our own work preferences and those of our teammates, you can adjust your work style as much as you’re comfortable with to improve the team’s workflow. . For example, if you are working in accounting or financial systems that deal with money, and you experience problems as a result of carelessness in your work, then you should definitely change your behavior.
Different expectations of output
Besides behavior, members can also have different expectations of their output or contributions. This is revealed in the fourth question: How can I contribute to the project?
However, it’s not useful to just give our opinions about our contributions. We should simultaneously listen to others’ opinions: What do they expect of me? What contributions do I expect of other members?
By voicing out mutual expectations of work output, team members can smooth out potential conflicts and even discuss ways to help each other at work.
In this post, we’ve introduced you to the Tuckman Model of team development, which helps illustrate the different stages of maturity in a team, the relationships between members, and how this can impact the overall performance of the team.
We then layered that model with the Drucker Exercise. The two together can enhance the ability of members to communicate and learn more about each other, encouraging smoother conflict management.
All in all, team-building is an important factor in maximizing team productivity, and the Drucker Exercise paired with the Tuckman Model is a great way to start team-building and strengthen the bonds between members.
Give it a try with your next project and see how much it improves the process!
This post was adapted from our Backlog Japanese blog article Drucker Exercise meets Tuckman Model by Nulab team member, Tomonari Nakamura.