Do you have time for Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

The TV reality show “The colony” does demonstrate the stages of team building Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. I watched season one this week. It is like survival meets the apocalypse. However you have all the issues of a group of people forming a team.

  1. 1.       Teams initially go through a “forming” stage in which members are positive and polite.
  2. 2.       Reality sets in and your team moves into a “storming” phase. One’s authority may be challenged as others jockey for position and their roles are clarified.
  3. 3.       Gradually, the team moves into a “norming” stage, as a hierarchy is established. Team members come to respect authority of a leader, and others show leadership in specific areas.
  4. 4.       When the team reaches the “performing” stage, hard work leads directly to progress towards the shared vision of their goal.

One interesting thing that was demonstrated that does happen many times in real life is that the skills one has may have little or no value in an emergency situation. However, because one still sees themselves based on their normal circumstance they may over estimate their own importance. For example there was a doctor and ER nurse on the team. In a situation like on the show dehydration and diet issues become problems. From my days in Alaska I remember monitoring water bottles to make sure everyone was drinking enough on long hikes. But no effort was made to make sure everyone was taking in enough water. The other issue was food nutrition. They had mostly nonperishable foods. If your planning for a long camping trip you balance the carbs, fats, and proteins. In a case where you have a limited amount and selection of food you need to not only rations but try to balance carb, fats, and proteins as much as possible. In their case proteins were a major limiting factor but no effort was made to maximize this limited resource. These are medical issues, there were two highly trained medical people in the team, but these issues were not addressed. It just demonstrates that their skills were specialized and not fully transferable to their specific emergency situation.

In season one there were only about a third of the people who had badly needed skills and experience. However, because of a lack of people skills two people with needed skills were undervalued. At the same time votes were taken on course of actions. I have been in many situations, most not emergencies where people who lacked knowledge and experience had a major say on how things were done. In several cases there was not enough time to educate these individuals or they refused to learn. This generally resulted in bad decisions being made. Unfortunately, the people who made the decisions never realized this until it was too late to correct their decisions.  The show did not have a leader it had a committee with everyone getting a vote and the majority winning. In the case of the show this jockeying for position or “Storming” resulted in a lot of effort being put into the wrong tasks.  Because the members had to reach a norming stage before they would allow the people who knew what they were doing to make decisions. Once the team was able to assign some leadership and reached the norming phase they were able to move into the performing stage and get things done.

In many situations in real life there is not enough time to truly build a team let alone allow them the time to establish a leader. That is one reason groups are formed in anticipation of events. It is also why well performing groups are assigned the critical projects. Because forming a team comes at a price.

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