Teamwork Lessons from “The Wire” – Storming Stage

Teamwork Lessons from “The Wire” – Storming Stage

  • Jan 18,2019
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This is the second part of a series on teamwork that is based on the famous HBO show “The Wire.” In the first part of the series we discussed the “Forming Stage” of Tuckman’s Theory of Group Development. In this post, we are going to address the Storming Stage of Team development.

Once the team has been formed, Lieutenant Daniels places the detail team in pairs. He then asks them to do specific tasks, such as conduct surveillance on the drug dealers and to build a flowchart comprising of a who is who within the dealer network.

However, at this point the detail still doesn’t trust each other and each of them abandons their posts. They continue to not follow the orders of their superior, Lieutenant Daniels, and even challenge him at times.

As a middle manager, Lieutenant Daniels is caught up in the politics of the Baltimore Police Department who are expecting him to deliver quick results, which means making decisions that he finds uncomfortable and he may not always agree with. The Team Leader, Lieutenant Daniels, knows that the detail work that his team is involved in requires effort and time. He knows that his bosses just don’t understand this.

There are some detective pairs, such as Detective Kima and Detective McNulty, who start appreciating the skills that each other bring to the team. Meanwhile other team members, Detective Freamon, for example, are still operating in their own world and are seemingly not engaged in the team dynamics. The other detectives look at him with wonder as he sits carving dollhouse furniture as a hobby. However, Freamon really is engaged, but quiet and refined. He is an introvert!

He listens, and has keen investigative and analysis skills as well. At a key moment within the Storming stage, Freamon actually demonstrated his talents after nearly everyone else has already given up on him. It was his time to shine, when he was considered withdrawn from the rest of the team, Freamon was actually working hard to connect key pieces of evidence together, which led to the team’s first breakthrough and was critical for the team’s success. Through this, he stepped up to the plate and earned the appreciation and garnered the respect of the entire team. (For a list of characters, please refer to the Forming Stage post)

Disaster sometimes hits during the Storming stage. It hit the detail when they went on a raid that was ordered by Lieutenant Daniels to appease his bosses. The raid resulted in a complete mess and resulted in a major setback for the investigation. However, on the positive side, it placed the whole team on the same side again as they were fending for their survival as a unit.

In the Storming stage:

  • Team members challenge each other and there is tension
  • Team members challenge the team leader and don’t trust their decisions
  • Communication is characterized by conflict and confrontation
  • Some team members want greater commitment from their colleagues who are still not engaged

The Team Leader in the Storming Stage:

  • Accept and understand that he/she is being tested
  • Has to remind the team of their goals
  • Try to get them to understand that conflict is normal
  • Get them to understand that their differences add value
  • Tries to keep the team communication flowing and the team intact

When teams succeed in getting through the STORMING Stage they start operating in unison and with cohesiveness. The next installment of this series, I will pick up where we left off and discuss the NORMING stage.

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