Six-sigma and team dynamics

Posted on December 2, 2012 by


Good team dynamics are essential to the success or failure of a Six Sigma project. They include knowing the responsibilities of each member of the project improvement team, including the team leader (known as either the Black Belt or Green Belt), the internal consultant (known as the Master Black Belt), the team members themselves, as well as the project sponsor (known as the Champion). In addition to team responsibilities, team dynamics include knowledge and application of basic facilitation skills.


One definition of a team is: two or more individuals associated in some joint action. In the business world, these joint actions should have some mission or objective that achieves results. Most business-related teams, however, reflect the dictionary definition of a group—any collection of or assemblage of persons or things. This is even more so with the host of teams attempting to achieve Six Sigma improvements through the use of the Process Improvement methodology (DMAIC), or the Process Design methodology, Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify (DMADV). Many groups of individuals who call themselves a team end up failing miserably using either the DMAIC or DMADV methodology. Often, the reason behind their failure is a poor understanding of team dynamics and the stages a team progresses through to atain its goal. The most common model of team dynamics forming-storming-norming-performing-adjourning is outlined below:
At this stage, personal relations are characterized by a dependency on group leaders to provide structure. The leader’s main goal is to orientate members of the group – to the mission, vision and goals of the organization. The kind of behavior that is commonly observed at this point is questioning. Why are we here? What we are supposed to do? How are we going to get it done? These questions are part of the group forming process. A leader should provide as much structure as possible in this stage. Team building is important here, so things such as games and clarification exercises are necessary. Don’t assume that people know each other, or are comfortable with each other.
This stage in group development is characterized by a focus on personal relationships within the group. Different people vie for positions, and there is a fair amount of: conflict and confrontation among group members. Confrontations can be about who is responsible for what, who are going to be the ‘leaders’ of the group, what are going to be the work rules, and so forth. On a committee, differences of opinion over how things should be done, and who should be the ‘movers and shakers’ will come to play.
During this stages the group begins to settle down. Personal relations are marked by greater cohesion. Members of the group start to feel that they belong to it, rather than merely being in it. At the Norming stage of development members begin to share ideas, feelings, give and receive feedback, and generally chat about what is going on and what they are doing.
During this period, members of the group feel good about being a part of their group. At this time, there is a brief abandonment of the task at hand (studying, working or whatever) and a period of play – enjoyment of each other, socializing, and general fun.
At this stage, group members achieve interdependence. This means that they work well together, achieving more together than they would as individuals. In a committee context, this means that people help each other with ideas and support. In the Performing stage group members are both task and maintenance (people) orientated – this means that they get things done but also make sure that individuals in the group are okay. By this point, a group has set itself clear goals (to have a good time, to run a big event, etc), and a lot is achieved.
Adjourning, is the break-up of the group, hopefully when the task is completed successfully, its purpose fulfilled; everyone can move on to new things, feeling good about what’s been achieved. From an organizational perspective, recognition of and sensitivity to people’s vulnerabilities in Tuckman’s fifth stage is helpful, particularly if members of the group have been closely bonded and feel a sense of insecurity or threat from this change. Feelings of insecurity would be natural for people with high ‘steadiness’ attributes and with strong routine and empathy style.

Do your Six Sigma teams progress through these stages? Leave your comments below:

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