Pretty much any time the topic of team building has come up, it’s a fairly safe bet that I’ve taken a shot at Tuckman’s model of group development. You likely know it as “forming, storming, norming and performing.” While conceptually appealing (and hey, it rhymes, so what’s not to like?) what it describes is lots of theory, unsupported by the practical substance of how teams and groups actually develop. Sadly, that hasn’t stopped it from being cited with ridiculous frequency, and hold a dominant place in the collective minds of leaders everywhere. There is an explanation as to why this happened. There are also many other models with which to replace it.
How do you make sense of a high stakes situation where your credibility and confidence are being challenged? What is the appropriate response when you are in front of a hostile executive, with no option to phone a friend? The right answer always depends, and what it depends on is your ability to take a read of the influences at play and what they might mean. That is where models come in. With the right model, you can gain insight on what is happening and make a meaningful determination of your next move. Here’s how to do it.
Models are how we make sense of the world. We tend to do far better with simple models that provide specific insights, rather than grand theories that attempt to reduce everything down to a single, unified perspective. The challenge is how to identify relevant models, and build an inventory that makes sense for us and our experience. Some models are generic and broadly applicable. Others are specific and focussed. Some models you will be introduced to, others you will discover and some you will build. In all instances, it’s about knowing the meaning you need to create and the perspectives that matter.
I’ve ranted about best practices many times before. Nonetheless, it is human nature to want there to be a right answer, to know that we are doing the right thing and to believe that the actions we take are defensible. Normal to want, impossible to get. The reality is that we live in a complex and nuanced world, and we need varied ways of making sense of it. We need effective ways to evaluate our options, understand the implications and assess whether we are making the best decision at the time. That’s where models come in.
We have a complicated relationship with sharing and copying the work of others. Which is a polite way of saying that there is a great deal of plagiarism in the world, some of it only thinly veiled. It is an entirely different proposition when we think about copying ourselves. It’s our work already. So what could possibly go wrong? Without the appropriate attentiveness and focus, the answer is “A great deal.”
We have different ways of knowing, and we have different patterns of forgetting. Facts and details that we don’t use regularly fade, distort or disappear altogether. Concepts, patterns and generalized principles remain as an underlying skeletal structure. Where we value factual knowing over conceptual reasoning, though, we can call into question what we know and what we don’t. That is particularly challenging when we start making sense of emerging trends and new technologies that seem impenetrable, obscure and yet unnervingly popular and hyped. It can feel like you are missing something fundamental. The reality is that it is the fundamentals that are often missing instead.