Teamwork Lessons from “The Wire” – Norming Stage

Teamwork Lessons from “The Wire” – Norming Stage

  • Jan 15,2019
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Norming is the third phase in Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development. We will discuss it in the context of “The Wire”, the popular HBO series. We already discussed the Forming and Storming Stages as they relate to team development in previous posts.

Going back to “The Wire” detail team, we will pick up where we left off. The detail/special unit team bounced back intact from the Storming Stage mess and decided that it was imperative that they begin to trust each other. The detail team members slowly started to discover that each member possessed hidden talents and skills. Some examples that became clear were that, as aforementioned, Detective Freamon is a very astute investigator; also that Detective Kima tracks everything by writing it down so she never forgets a detail, and that Detective McNulty possesses stubborn determination to succeed, largely because he staked his detective career on the success of this mission. Several other detectives exhibited excellent surveillance skills, as they were able to conduct reconnaissance on the drug dealers while evading detection.

The team’s biggest surprise was that Detective Prez, who was just demoted to desk duty due to an unfortunate shooting incident, proved to be extremely talented in decoding and solving puzzles. He managed to solve the pager number puzzle (that the drug dealers used to communicate with each other) and this led the detail team to track all of the phone calls through a wiretap. This was considered a major breakthrough in the whole mission of the investigation. This also changed their opinion of each other and solidified the idea that each of them possesses talents that can be harnessed for the common goal. As team members they were starting to appreciate the skills that they brought to the team and the mission. This improved their level of trust in each others abilities and pushed them to work more cohesively together.

In addition, Lieutenant Daniels as their Team Leader protected his direct reports from reprimands on several occasions, thus earning himself the trust and respect of the whole group. A team leader sometimes has to stand up for the well being of the team and defend them from the surrounding organization. He also started listening to their advice and polling them on their views on what to do next, thus engaging them and uniting them as a team. He also started viewing them as talented contributors instead of as a dysfunctional group. The shift in how a leader views the team translated into loyalty from the members.

In the Norming Stage, team members:

  • Start trusting each other
  • Start creating rules to work productively together
  • Start appreciating the skills they each bring to the team
  • Start sharing information and knowledge freely so that they operate as a cohesive unit
  • Start handling conflict efficiently and discussing issues openly
  • Start talking about being on the same team and have pride in their unity
  • Are motivated to work together to achieve the team goals

In the Norming Stage, the team leader:

  • Encourages inter-team communication
  • Encourages positive conflict to reach consensus
  • Allows team members to discover their hidden talents
  • Gives the team an opportunity to collaborate
  • Provides team members with constructive feedback
  • Protects the team from disturbances and interference from the outside

The NORMING stage is crucial to the success of any team because this is where they start establishing their group norms and appreciating each other. They really start believing in WE instead of ME.

In the next instalment of this series, I will pick up where we left off and discuss the PERFORMING stage.

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