Although there are numerous schools of thought concerning organizational development, Hall (2008) describes four distinct phases that technology teams go through they are, forming, storming, norming and performing. This structure is helpful when leading any group of educational technology leaders. Careful attention to the dynamics at work within the team will help the implementation of the technology at the administrative and classroom level.
The first stage Hall (2008) describes is the forming stage. Here the team is assembled and undergoes a kind of honeymoon in which they enjoy the excitement of all things new and shiny. Members seldom question ideas and strategies. Even the strongest members of the team appear to be complaisant in all matters.
Next the team may encounter a problematic phase. Hall (2008) calls this the storming phase. Here the comfort of the forming stage gives way to such comfort among the team members that they develop cliques and alliances which are disruptive of the group dynamic. This phase of the organization may be looked back upon as “the good old days,” but as it the team is enduring it, there is a lot of contention and division. During this phase, even the most driven members of the team produce little to nothing and fail to meet deadlines and individual goals. For the sake of the team and the larger objectives the team is charged to develop, it is best to get through the storming phase as quickly as possible and with as little time and resources wasted in the process(Wilpert, 1995).
Following the storming phase, teams will often encounter the norming phase. Here, the leader brings the team together to define for and with them the guidelines for the creation and advancement of the team’s culture. All members of the team are encouraged to participate in the creation of these norms, thereby making them a point of shared ownership. This shared ownership builds cooperation among the team members and tends to break down walls that may have grown among the team. Although this process is often formal, it may be very informal in nature. This process develops individual accountability that allows the team to work together toward common goals(Wilpert, 1995).
Once the team comes through the previous stages, the real work can be done. This last stage is called the performing stage. Individual members, being held to the standards that bind all members, work toward the common goals of the team individually and collectively. High volumes of quality work will flow from team members ahead of schedule. This is the goal of any team, but care must be taken by the team leader to keep the team from regressing into earlier stages(Wilpert, 1995).
Hall (2008) points out “blinders” which prevent the team from thinking ahead to avoid future problems. Among these are, stringent deadlines, tight budget constraints, lack of authority by the team or its members, lack of understanding by the team or its members, technical limitations, and failure of the team or its members to consider what impediments lie just ahead.
Hall, D. (2008) The technology director’s guide to leadership: the power of great questions. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education
Wilpert, B. (1995) Organizational Behavior. Annual Review of Psychology. 46. P 59
I wrote about these four stages in one of my blogs as well. I found it interesting that I could relate this to the Voice Team that we have at work now. I understood the idea of what the group does, as well as my role, but learning about how Hall puts it into stages has been very beneficial to me. I find myself thinking of different strategies and being able to give a different perspective by helping the group figure out what stage we are at. The blinders section was a great benefit also. I have seen many times that this causes problems with ideas we have and how we move forward. But by educating each other and being able to listen and communicate effectively, this problem can be lessened if not avoided.
My department at school has been cycling through some of this in the last two years. Since the department had not truly been complete until last year, we were fortunate to “click” as well as we did. The whole department communicated well and worked toward mutual benefit in every aspect. It was fun to be THE department in school that everyone else turned to for guidance in the area of technology and classroom management, etc.
Staff changes this year have interrupted this process a bit. I have seen it in myself and other strong players in the department. This chapter has helped mature my perspective and put a finger on some of the problems and possible solutions.
It is important to keep the team’s focus on tangible, even quantifiable goals. Unified focus will take us a long way toward closing the gaps and regaining our momentum.