University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

Forming: The First Stage of Group Development

It takes time for any new team to get its act together. In this stage, there's lots of exploration as group members get to know one another. There's a focus on similarities and differences and first impressions are key as people try to figure out the similarities and differences. Because everything is new there is a fair amount of confusion and anxiety as people try to put their best foot forward. As a result, productivity will be lower. Issues that arise are questions of whether each person feels like they belong to the group, whether members can be trusted and who is in charge.

The individual tends to wonder whether he or she will be accepted and is careful and polite in order to make that happen. The leader's task is directing, so that the group can get coordinated in their efforts. Orientation is an important task in the forming stage.

This is also a good time to look at how the group is organized. Because the group has not yet molded into a strong, effective unit, it's still relatively easy to reorganize, get people trained in new skills and look at how the processes in the group work. It's also helpful to set group ground rules, which are expectations about how work will be done, decisions will be made, and how people will treat each other. In short, the supervisor has a wonderful opportunity to be sure that the right people are in the right place using the right process.

Characteristics of the Forming Stage

  • Exploration
  • Focus on similarities and differences
  • First impressions are key
  • Confusion/anxiety
  • Lower productivity
  • Issues of inclusion, leadership, developing trust
  • Open communication is a must

Stage two: Storming

Resources for the Forming Stage

Organizational Development
Organizational development services are available to assist with managing conflict, strengthening teams, and understanding change.

Supervisory Training Program
The Supervisory Training Program offers many courses on topics such as managing differences, supervising during change, and running effective meetings.

Employee Development
The Manager's Toolkit has a section on employee development that can help you identify development needs of members of your new group.

Tips for the Forming Stage

Setting Team Ground Rules
Ground rules are an important tool for helping individuals function together as a team. They reflect what is important to the members about how they work together.

Defining Norms (pdf)
This worksheet can help you plan how the norms for your group will be defined.