Teamwork Lessons from “The Wire”- Forming Stage

Teamwork Lessons from “The Wire”- Forming Stage

  • Jan 17,2019
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Over the last few months I have been watching “The Wire”. For those of you who have not heard of it, it is an HBO series from 2002 that is centered on a fictional Baltimore Police force who are trying to capture inner city drug dealers who have been elusive and off the grid.

After watching the first season, I found that there were so many applicable lessons in teamwork in regards to the detail or special unit that was formed to capture the drug dealers.


Following a description of the characters, I will look at how their team came together and evolved within the context of Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development. This blog will focus on the Forming stage.

Let me start by giving you a description of the characters of the detail.

Team Members/Characters

  • Lieutenant Daniels, who becomes the Commander of the detail, is handed a team of seemingly misfits and problem hires. Everybody who wanted to get rid of someone on their own unit placed the person on Lieutenant Daniels’ detail.
  • Detective McNulty, the instigator and the reason this detail was created, he is very sharp but never follows guidelines or procedures.
  • Detective Kima Greggs, handpicked by Lieutenant Daniels to be on the detail with him, she is the only female officer in the detail.
  • Detective Herc, is a bit violent in his policing tactics.
  • Detective Carver, an ambitious policeman interested in being promoted.
  • Detective Freamon, is a tenacious and intelligent older police force member, he has been moved around to various units to keep him quiet in regards to a political scandal.
  • Detective Prez, trigger happy and incompetent, he too has bounced around several units.
  • Detective Polk, has been placed in the detail due to alcoholism.
  • Detective Mahone, was placed in the detail due to being close to retirement.
  • Detective Sanny, placed in the detail to spy on McNulty.

The team is FORMED and given a location, the basement, to work from. They have Lieutenant Daniels as a leader but:

  • They don’t trust each other.
  • They have polite and cautious communication.
  • They avoid conflict with each other.
  • They don’t understand the detail’s mission yet.
  • They don’t understand their roles in the team.
  • They don’t know Lieutenant Daniels except from rumors.
  • There is confusion and lack of clarity about steps to take.
  • Productivity is not high.
  • It’s still a “me” not a “we” mentality.

As a Team Leader, Lieutenant Daniels:

  • Is pessimistic about his team but does not give up.
  • Is responsible for their safety and growth.
  • Knows that there is potential in everyone.
  • Rises to the challenge presented by viewing it as an opportunity for all of them to bond together and excel.
  • Has a chance to prove that he can bring the detail to accomplish their mission and achieve recognition by building a successful case against the drug dealers.
  • Has his first meeting with the TEAM and he divides them into partners, and then assigns them each organizational tasks.

The FORMING stage is one of the most important phases of teamwork. It’s the time to get to know your teammates, share personal information, and to start understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your colleagues and the roles everyone will play.

In the next installment of this series, I will pick up where we left off and discuss the 


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